Williams turns in record results

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Williams Holdings, the diversified industrial group, produced record profits in the year to December as margin improvement in last year's acquisitions added a gloss to improving trading conditions in all large markets, writes Tom Stevenson.

Nigel Rudd, chairman, said all three core divisions had performed well, producing strong cash flow despite still stiff competition. Rising raw material input prices had been resisted.

He said 1994 had been an important year in the consolidation of Williams away from its roots as an acquisitive conglomerate towards a group tightly focused on building products, fire protection and security.

Pre-tax profits rose 31 per cent to £200.3m, pushing earnings per share from 15.4p to 20.5p. The final dividend of 8.25p made a full-year total of 13.5p, 1p higher.

During the year Williams raised £267m from a one-for-seven rights issue that funded in-fill acquisitions costing £212m. That, together with free cash flow worth 118 per cent of operating profits, left gearing at 13 per cent.

Mr Rudd said Williams would continue to look for acquisitions in its core areas, using its strong balance sheet to buy for cash and then working on margins to bring them up to the standard of the rest of the group.

Williams' shares closed 1p lower at 319p, at which level they have lost a fifth of their value over the past year.