Warner Howard makes a clean 6.2m pounds pre-tax

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WARNER HOWARD, the hand drier and washing machine maker and rental company, produced a steady increase in profits for the year to 28 February, writes Robert Cole.

Pre-tax profits were 9 per cent ahead at pounds 6.2m, up from pounds 5.7m in the previous period.

Warner Howard has 70,000 hand drying machines in British lavatories. It also rents 16,000 washing machines to institutions such as nurses' homes and army barracks.

Profits rose faster than sales, which expanded by 5 per cent to pounds 23.2m. Pre-tax profit margins grew to 27 from 26 per cent. Ernie Hazell, managing director, said the wider margins were won by tight control of costs. Any attempt to increase prices was rebuffed by customers.

Earnings per share were 18.7p against 17.2p. The dividend is increased to 6.5p from 5.9p.

Mr Hazell said it was a tough year and there were few signs that the harsh climate was improving. The company has been criticised because it depends on new building and refurbishment work for sale of its equipment.

However, it has benefited as the harsher economy has prompted more users to rent rather than buy.

A basic washing machine costs pounds 1,200 and can be rented for pounds 60 a month. A hand drier costs pounds 350 new but can be rented for pounds 2 a week.

Warner was hit by a pounds 337,000 extraordinary charge because it was liable for a debt incurred by a tenant of a property that went into liquidation.