City briefs: Howden Joinery; Provident Financial
Howden Joinery has ambitions to continue to grow its network of depots after a successful year that saw its profits grow twice as fast as its revenues.
It opened 39 depots last year, including its first five in Northern Ireland, and had 732 at the year end. It now believes there is “the opportunity for around 850 UK depots”.
Howden’s chief executive Andrew Livingston said: “2019 was a year of progress for Howdens and I am pleased with how the business performed.
“We increased group revenue by 4.8% to £1.6bn, with profit before tax, up 9.3%, increasing faster than sales, and gross margin also improving.”
Although the share price of the East Yorkshire-based business has slipped in the last week, it is still 50% higher than at the start of 2019. The FTSE 250 company is valued at £4bn.
Provident Financial has increased its dividend by 150% in response to its “continued operational and financial recovery”.
The Bradford-based group had spent £24m fighting off a protracted and hostile takeover bid by Non-Standard Finance last year, which came after a difficult couple of years for the business.
However its 2019 results showed a 32% increase in pre-tax profits, to £128.8m. The big jump was mostly because of lower exceptional costs caused by restructuring and a £14m credit from provisions it had made for a refund programme by Vanquis Bank.
Malcolm Le May, group chief executive, believes the company has “momentum behind our strategic initiatives”.
He said: “We have delivered an increase in profits as we have continued to adapt our businesses and culture to changing customer needs and the evolving regulatory environment.
“All of our businesses have progressively tightened underwriting over the last two years and we have built good momentum entering 2020 as we continue to adapt the group to the evolving regulatory landscape and to meet our customers’ needs.”