Whitecroft falls on warning
The Investment Column
The continuing deterioration in the commercial construction market meant both the lighting and building products divisions were having to combat lower levels of activity and price deflation, the company warned. But Mr Derbyshire reckons the market has over-reacted. The company managed to shrug off the malaise to produce strong second-half figures, he said, and still ended the year with order books 20 per cent ahead.
Certainly the current year should be boosted by a full-year's contribution from Chalmers & Mitchell, acquired for pounds 4.75m in November. The Glasgow- based company has given Whitecroft market leadership in so-called hazardous lighting - equipment used on oil rigs and in chemical plants, for instance - to add to its strong market positions elsewhere. The lighting division, the second biggest in the commercial market behind TLG, raised profits last year by 6.3 per cent to pounds 6.21m last year.
The Leaderflush doors business, the other area affected by the construction market, also did well to lift profits by a tenth to pounds 13.5m. But, given that in total between a fifth and a quarter of group profits are exposed to construction, the market is probably right to be a little cautious over short-term prospects. Further out, the pounds 7.3m being spent on Edward Hall, which leads the European market in medical cotton fibre, should drive future growth and there may yet be recovery in the construction market.
With profit forecasts downgraded to around pounds 8.5m, the shares stand on a forward price-earnings ratio of around 15. High enough for now.
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