Strong overseas sales buoy Walker results

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The Independent Online
WALKER Greenbank, the mini-conglomerate that nearly collapsed in 1989 and has since turned around into a wallcoverings group, reported a solid increase in profitability.

The headline pre-tax figure shows a modest increase from pounds 7.1m to pounds 7.3m. However, a large exceptional profit in last year's figures masks a more impressive performance.

Walker makes wallpaper and other wallcoverings, mostly for offices. Underlying operating profit grew a fifth from pounds 6.1m to pounds 7.3m.

Overall turnover rose 10 per cent, but sales overseas were pushed ahead by 35 per cent. The company said exports accounted for a quarter of output, and sales to Continental Europe were showing particular promise.

Charles Wightman, chief executive, said: 'All our businesses are experiencing an improvement in sales and we are confident that this momentum will be maintained.'

Internally generated profits reduced gearing from 10 to 2 per cent and the interest charge declined from pounds 520,000 to pounds 258,000.

Three elements distorted the comparable figures.

Walker made losses of pounds 2.6m on closing businesses and property write-downs, but benefited from a pounds 3.5m windfall as a legal action was settled in its favour.

Walker received an out-of-court settlement with the owners and auditors of a shopfitting business the company bought in 1987. The dispute centred on the accuracy of financial statements.

The one-off profits received in the year to 31 January saw earnings per share climb to 5.3p. Last year earnings were 4 per cent lower at 5.1p. However, the company prepared a normalised earnings-per-share figure showing an increase of 13 per cent from 4.5p.

The total dividend was lifted from 3.1p to 3.3p. Shares were unmoved yesterday at 99p. However, the stock has appreciated by 35 per cent in value since this time last year - outperforming the stock market average by 15 per cent.