Profits finally pick up at Hickson

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The Independent Online
Hickson, the beleaguered chemicals group that has been hit by a series of disasters over the past few years, said yesterday its radical restructuring programme was finally beginning to feed through into profits.

Chairman Sir James Hann said trading in the current year was continuing in line with expectations, and he predicted a stronger performance in the second half of the year. Hickson's shares plunged from 241p in 1993 to 53p earlier this year but rose 4p to 77.5p yesterday.

The group announced underlying pre-tax profits of pounds 3.8m for the six months to June compared with pounds 1m in the same period last year. However, Hickson warned the strength of sterling, which reduced first-half pre- tax profits by around pounds 1.5m and sales by pounds 10m, would hinder the group's progress.

Profits at Hickson collapsed in 1995 after the loss of a contract with Unilever. This led to a sharp rise in debt which forced bankers to take control of assets. Since then the group has undergone a management shake- up and disposal programme. It has reduced debts by pounds 70m to pounds 33m over the past 18 months.

Hickson has reached an agreement with Yorkshire Electricity on the construction of a pounds 30m power plant at its Castleford site, which should reduce the group's energy bill.