William Sinclair, the UK’s most technically advanced producer of growing media, announces a trading update ahead of the company’s preliminary results for the 12 months ended 30 September 2014, which will be released in January 2015.
Sales for the year ended 30 September 2014 were flat when compared to the previous year, with sales during the second half of the year being slightly lower than for the comparable period in 2013. This was in part due to the unusually late growing season in 2013 which led to stronger than normal performances during the later months of April and May. In addition, some sales were lost by the Company’s professional division following the closure of its Boothby site and during the transition to Ellesmere Port.
With the peat harvest being slightly behind our expectations, the underlying EBITDA loss for the year will be approximately GBP1 million, compared with our earlier expectation of a broadly breakeven underlying EBITDA.
Despite the peat harvest being lower than anticipated the Company has successfully built up its stock levels and now has surplus amounts of high quality peat over and above what will be required for the coming selling season.
Net bank debt as at 30 September 2014 was GBP3.5m. This reflects the trading results, the significant level of exceptional items in the year caused by refinancing costs, dual running costs related to the move from Boothby to Ellesmere Port (which were at a higher level in the second half as Ellesmere Port built up its staffing levels), the significant capital expenditure during the year at Ellesmere Port as well as the receipt from Natural England.
The development of Ellesmere Port continues according to plan and budget. The growing media plant has been fully commissioned and high quality product is being produced and sold. Some additional building works are now being completed to ensure that the peat at Ellesmere Port is further protected from the weather and that, as a result, the product exceeds our customers’ expectations for the coming selling season.
Production of SuperFyba, the best alternative to peat, is increasing and now forms a significant component of a high quality retail product going forward.
William Sinclair has been through a period of significant change with the substantial part of its main investment at Ellesmere Port now complete. The Company is now well placed to grow following this very significant capital investment, alongside its investment in an exciting new range of products and its brand rejuvenation.