Carlisle-based auction and rural services firm H&H saw a pre-tax profit of £330,000 in the financial year to 30 June 2020, compared with a £371,000 loss in the 2018-19 financial year.
The business, which includes the UK’s largest livestock trading company, Harrison & Hetherington, said it was pleased to deliver a positive set of results during what had been a challenging and unpredictable year.
The auctioneering side of the business had adapted well to Covid-19 restrictions, finishing the year ahead of budget and with record trading volumes in the final quarter, said Richard Rankin, H&H Group’s chief executive.
See also: H&H profits down after a testing year
But he acknowledged that some hard-earned gains had almost been wiped out by one bad debt of £236,000, arising from a meat trading company that was hit badly by the closure of the restaurant trade during lockdown.
Mr Rankin said the firm had received very positive feedback about its online livestock and machinery sales, introduced in response to the pandemic.
This was an area it wanted to grow as part of a strategy to offer as broad a church of services as possible to farmers.
“We are in an ideal strategic position to respond to the needs of both digital and physical marts, and going forward, our aim is to build on the successes of the online pedigree cattle, sheep and machinery sales that have already taken place.
“With online dominating all markets for the foreseeable future, our shift towards digital and media services with added capacity in web development and e-commerce is a positive and progressive move.”
Other H&H divisions
The print signage part of the business, H&H Reeds, was dealt a blow when tourism and hospitality businesses ceased trading during lockdown, as work for these formed a significant part of its customer base.
However, the team reacted by refocusing on delivering Covid-19 signage to local businesses and government, he said.
H&H Insurance Brokers has seen a fall in its top line, but cost-saving measures have been implemented and a new commercial director appointed to broaden market opportunities.
H&H Land and Estates had also been affected significantly during lockdown, but since the easing of restrictions and the announcement of the stamp duty holiday, sales and lettings have both picked up.
“Obviously, after the difficult year we had last year, seeing us finish above the line while coping with a global pandemic is more than reassuring,” said Mr Rankin.
The firm has said that for 2020 no final dividend has been recommended, as it is important in the current climate that it focuses on securing cashflow and building long-term value.
However, its 1,100 shareholders were paid an interim dividend of 5p/share earlier in the year.
The business has said it wants to play a more active role in championing the rural economy and has already written to MPs in regions where it and its customers are based to start to build closer relationships.