Tough 2013 conditions hit fertiliser company

GrowHow UK Ltd directors "confident" for firm's future, despite significant impact of price increases

Owen Humphreys/PA Wire Cash, money, currency
Cash, money, currency

A fertiliser company with a production and storage facility in Billingham was hit hard by challenging trading conditions last year.

Financial statements for the year ended December 31, 2013, show turnover at GrowHow UK Ltd dropped 8%, from £506m in 2012 to £464.1m, due to lower selling prices, influenced by the conditions in the global fertiliser market.

Operating profit likewise dropped 71% - going from £121.9m to £35.3m - because of an increase in the price of gas, the predominant raw material.

However, margins improved in the fourth quarter of the year due to fertiliser selling price increases.

GrowHow UK supplies plant nutrients to the agricultural markets and synergistic products to the process chemicals industries.

It employs more than 500 people, most of them in manufacturing, with some in selling an administration.

The Billingham site - which primarily manufactures ammonia, nitric acid and ammonium nitrate - is at the heart of the Teesside chemical industry and has many close links with neighbouring chemical companies.

It has undergone many changes since ammonia was first produced there in 1920s, with millions of pounds having been invested in recent years to allow it to compete with plants around the world.

Billingham has its own laboratory where products are tested at different stages to ensure they meet specifications before being released for sale.

At the end of 2013, the group, which has no external debt other than finance leases, showed a cash position of £22.2m. The company has also negotiated a five year unsecured revolving credit facility with RBS of £51m, which expires in September 2017.

The annual report said the volatility of gas prices remained a risk, but the directors were confident regarding the future outlook of the business

“The business forecasts show continuing profitability and positive cash flows,” the report said. “The assumption used include a continuing strong demand for fertilisers, an economic gas price based on sufficient availability of gas supplies and cost savings generated as result of various cost efficiency measures.”

The directors do not recommend the payment of a dividend.

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