Triton Showers owner back in profit as sales rise 15%

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SHOWERS-to-tile maker Norcros reported a much healthier set of figures for the year to March 31, with chairman John Brown claiming “the strength of our product and service proposition” helped it to outperform what was generally considered to be a weak market.

Sales were up by 15.6% to £196.1m in a 53 week period to March 31, or by 13.4% on an annualised basis.

However, the most startling change was on its bottom line, where the firm – which owns Birmingham based shower maker Triton and Staffordshire based Johnson Tiles – moved from a pre-tax loss of £10m in 2010 to profit of £7.5m this year.

The company said that investment in new products and processes had driven revenues and market gains across its different categories, while “decisive” action taken in South Africa to address losses had resulted in a return to profitability in the territory.

UK sales were up by 11% to £114m, with like-for-like sales of Triton Showers up 4.7% and margins improving despite higher costs of copper and plastics. Its Johnson Tiles business, which has enjoyed a fillip since the collapse of Swinton-based Pilkington’s, continued to make strong gains in market share. UK sales were up 16.7%, although exports fell by 10.1% which it blamed on disruption to supplies into the Middle East.

Norcros said that investments made in inkjet print technology had broadened its service offer and more one-off, private specification work was being commissioned by architects and interior designers for the premium end of the market. It also said that as a result of increased demand, it plans to invest £2.4m  in a new kiln at its Stoke-on-Trent factory in order to boost capacity. It has also spent £1m on automated plant used for ready-mixing adhesives at the factory.

In South Africa, revenues grew 22.7% to £72.4m, with all three of its divisions contributing to profitability. However, the firm has now pulled out of the Greek market, stating that “the downturn in activity levels and the economy generally” meant it was no longer viable.

It added that its investment in the 50:50 joint venture company Philkeram Johnson had been written off in the prior years accounts.

An exceptional charge of £1.1m set against long term property liabilities was also more than offset by a £2.7m gain made by the sale of its 25% share in Australian firm R.J. Beaumont & Co.

The firm also said that strong cashflow generation had helped to pay down debt, thereby reducing finance costs. Net debt by its year end had fallen by 34.4% to £12.4m.

“Whilst we anticipate only slow economic recovery in the UK and South Africa over the next year, we have built a robust platform to grow further in our key markets. We therefore look forward to the future with confidence,” said Mr Brown.

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