Westminster powers ahead in first year after listing

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The Independent Online
WESTMINSTER Health Care, the nursing home group, completed its first full year as a quoted company in glowing health with a 163 per cent rise in pre-tax profits to pounds 11.2m, writes Terence Wilkinson.

The results were spurred by a near pounds 4m reduction in net interest charges after last year's flotation. Earnings per share rose 46 per cent and total dividends went up 20 per cent to 4.5p, with a final of 2.75p.

Last year, Westminster added 10 new homes and 704 beds, taking the total to 3,947. By the end of this year it expects to have 5,000 beds, taking account of its acquisition in June of Medilife Homes in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Net operating margins slipped from 24.4 to 23.8 per cent due to higher administrative overheads but improved in the second half.

Last October, Westminster moved away from its nursing home roots to buy Woodmill, a private hospital dealing in acute- care NHS contracts. Pat Carter, chief executive, said Westminster would seek similar opportunities to take advantage of government outsourcing of health care.

The Medilife acquisition took end-year gearing of 31 per cent into the low forties. Mr Carter, acknowledging that capital raising was inevitable at some point, said Westminster was comfortable with gearing of up to 60 per cent.