H&H Group navigates tough times to deliver strong results

H&H Group has delivered positive financial results amid the Covid-19 pandemic
H&H Group has delivered positive financial results amid the Covid-19 pandemic

Rural services company H&H has recorded a profit before tax of £330,000 in its yearly results up to 30 June 2020 following a loss the year before.

H&H Group said the results reflected both the 'stand-out successes and business stresses' which came in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Results indicate an overall operating profit of £742,000, with a profit before tax of £330,000, which is up £701,000 from the previous year.

Adverse economic conditions with slowdowns across all sectors meant that the progress during the first half of the year was compromised by the lockdown context of the last trading quarter, H&H said.

It follows the appointment of a new Chief Executive, Richard Rankin, who focused on delivering a leaner and more future-fit business.

H&H said this improved performance had only been possible with the dedication of teams across all the businesses, which includes Harrison & Hetherington, the UK’s largest livestock trading company.

The business retains a strong asset base, with net assets rising to £19.4m. Yet for 2020, no final dividend has been recommended, as the Board said it wanted to ensure strong financial governance.

Mr Rankin said the business had managed to invest and perform 'relatively strongly' during an 'unpredictable and fluctuating year'.

"This is despite hard-earned gains almost being wiped out by one bad debt, indirectly linked to Covid-19 halting the restaurant meat trade, Harrison & Hetherington Farmstock Auctioneers still adapted seamlessly to new restrictions.

"This meant finishing the year ahead of budget and managing to deliver record trading volumes in Q4."

He said there were still opportunities to develop the group's existing business, especially online, and the brand had continued to grow and strengthen in terms of sales and its reputation for expertise in the sector.

"We are in an ideal strategic position to respond to the needs of both digital and physical marts, and our aim is to build on the successes of the online pedigree cattle, sheep and machinery sales that have already taken place."

However, the print, signage and graphic design of the business, H&H Reeds, was dealt a blow due to the Covid-19 crisis.

The pandemic caused a halt in production as many businesses ceased trading during lockdown, including the tourism and hospitality sector which represents a big proportion of its customers.

Mr Rankin said: "The team reacted to the crisis by focusing on delivering Covid-19 signage and support solutions for local businesses and government authorities, and has been able to consolidate with the move onto the Borderway site.

“With online dominating all markets for the foreseeable future, our shift to focus on digital services with added capacity in web development and e-commerce is a positive and progressive move."

Elsewhere, H&H Insurance Brokers saw a fall in its top line, but cost-saving measures have since been implemented and a new commercial director appointed to broaden market opportunities.

This includes the appointment of a Commercial Director who will be responsible for broadening market opportunities and developing collaborative services. "This is already seeing wins and a return on this investment," Mr Rankin said.

H&H Land & Estates, the firm's land agency and property business, had been impacted considerably as a result of Covid-19, he added, but losses and jobs were protected through the furlough scheme.

"Since reopening, property sales and lettings have picked up, largely driven by both the Stamp Duty holiday and the dramatic increase in demand for farms, land and rural homes following the nationwide experience of lockdown.

"Senior management will now use this opportunity to reflect on the business and draw up a new strategic plan for 2021 and beyond,” Mr Rankin added.