12 April 1996

Sentry groups profits move up by 50% plus

PRE-TAX profits for the Sentry Farming Group rose by nearly 54% last year to reach more than £1.5m on a turnover of £7.3m. After-tax profits attributable to shareholders were £1m.

The UKs only publicly-quoted farm management company also announced it hoped to acquire the Norfolk-based Hallsworth farm management company. The move is subject to share holder approval.

The main contributor to the Sentrys higher profit last year was the increased number of farms managed by the group, said chairman Nigel Brown.

"It would be easy to dismiss these results by saying it was a wonderful year for farmers," said Mr Brown. He admitted it was a year in which crops grew well, were easy to harvest and prices were higher than expected. But he believed the current minimal level of cereal stocks will take several years to rebuild.

"Although there may be some volatility in supplies and prices in the medium term, the long-term trend is likely to be one of food shortages rather than surpluses," said Mr Brown.

Last years profit increase lead directors to recommend a 50% increase in share dividend to 5.1p. Share earnings increased by 47% from 15.6p to 28.8p.

A further increase in share earnings is expected next year if the merger with Hallsworth goes ahead. Turnover of the combined businesses could reach £10m.

Hallsworth farms 9,311ha (23,000 acres); Sentry farms about 23,481ha (58,000 acres).