Plant fire burns hole in Hickson's results

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The Independent Online
PROFITS at Hickson International, the chemicals concern, have been hit by an increased interest charge partly stemming from the cost of cleaning up after an accident at a plant in Cork, Ireland.

Debt rose to pounds 69m from pounds 49m and gearing from 35 to 51 per cent. Interest payments rose to pounds 7.7m from pounds 2.8m for the year to 31 December. As a result, taxable profits fell 9 per cent to pounds 22.1m.

The pounds 5m clean-up bill at Cork will be met by Hickson's insurers, but the accident and another mishap at a Yorkshire plant mean its insurance premiums will rise by pounds 4.5m to pounds 6m a year. .

Hickson spent pounds 7m to enhance its environmental screening procedures. It also invested in plant and equipment. Capital expenditure was pounds 35m in 1993, leading to a cash outflow of pounds 18m. The company said capital expenditure would fall to pounds 25m this year.

Dennis Kerrison, chief executive, said: 'In 1994 we will continue to operate in a tough economic environment.'

Earnings per share dipped to 10p from 10.5p but the total dividend stayed at 8p. The shares, which eased 2p to 208p, earn a gross yield of 4.8 per cent.