Agricultural supply co-op Countrywide Farmers has recorded increased profits for the third year following major restructuring.

The farmer-controlled business announced pre-tax profits of £4.3m for the year to 31 May, an increase of £3.2m on the previous year. Net debt was reduced by £8.9m.

£2.2m deficit

The results follow major restructuring in 2005, which saw more than 50 redundancies and left a £2.2m deficit in the year’s figures.

Countrywide said the latest profits had been partly achieved through the sale of surplus land.

‘Challenging’

John Hardman, Countrywide’s managing director, said the company had faced “challenging” market conditions in 2007 as well as “major changes” in a bid to strengthen the business.

“In 2007 we focused on reviewing the cost base of the business and ensuring the property assets of the Group were used to best effect.

Expansion

“These actions simplified and gave greater focus to the operations of the business, reducing its cost base and ultimately improving the profitability of the business. “

Mr Hardman said the company was planning to expand its number of retail stores next year, in addition to the stores due to open in the next three months.

Exploiting energy markets

“Further capital is also being invested in our energy business, extending our fuel trading area into the south west with a fuel distribution plant due to open in Weston-super-Mare,” he added.

“Renewable energy is a rapidly evolving and exciting new market for both businesses and consumers.

“With our range of business across agriculture, energy and retail we are uniquely placed to exploit this market.”