Big Norfolk businesses post strong results ahead of coronavirus impact
Three of the county’s biggest employers have posted strong end-of-year results for 2019/2020, but could see some of their hard work undone following the coronavirus outbreak.
Aviva, Midwich and Angling Direct all posted results this week – some with record-breaking figures ahead of the lockdown.
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Angling Direct, which has grown from a single fishing tackle shop in Wroxham to the UK’s largest specialist tackle and equipment retailer, has seen sales leap again by 27pc.
Online sales were up £22.3m last year to £25.3m this year, with store sales making a 42pc jump from £19,7m to £27.9m.
The store count grew by 10 to 34, with native language websites launched in France and the Netherlands.
Martyn Page, executive chairman of the Rackheath-based business, said: “The impact of COVID-19 led to the closure of our 36 stores, but our online business has seen excellent growth.
“COVID-19 aside, the Board has taken progressive steps to create further operational efficiencies and address the challenges inherent in all rapidly growing businesses. We continue to focus on these steps and the opportunity to grow revenue and margins both in the UK and internationally.”
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Aviva posted a similarly rosy picture before the pandemic, with operating profit up 6pc to £3,184m.
Operating earnings per share also increased from 30p to 30.9p.
However the insurance giant – which employs 5,000 people In Norwich’s Surrey Street – has since said it expects to pay out £160m in coronavirus-related claims.
Bosses at the firm insisted they were “well positioned” to manage the crisis with claims coming in from life insurance, mortality and longevity broadly be offset by other business.
Diss-based Midwich was also in a strong position ahead of the lockdown.
The audio/visual specialists saw increases in revenue - £686m up from £574m - and operating profits which leapt by 16.5pc.
Dividends increased from 10.6p to 11.05p, and continental Europe took over as the biggest source of revenue.
As a result bosses have said trading conditions have been “very challenging”, saying: “At this stage it is unclear how quickly overall business will return to more normal levels.”
At its AGM last month Andrew Herbert, chairman, said: “The actions we have taken across the group to preserve cash and liquidity and reduce cost coupled with our strong balance sheet and extensive credit facilities gives the board confidence that the group is well placed to deal with the continuing uncertainty, and that it will be in a strong position to respond once markets start to recover.”
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