Anglian Group hopes change of owners can revive firm’s future

Anglian Group chief executive Brian McCluskie. Picture Richard Lee

Anglian Group chief executive Brian McCluskie. Picture Richard Lee - Credit: Archant

A high-level change of ownership has secured the future of home improvements firm Anglian Group - in what appears to be a bold move to reduce its debt and invest in growth.

The new Anglian Home Improvements showroom in Norwich

The new Anglian Home Improvements showroom in Norwich - Credit: Archant

The Norwich-based firm, which employs almost 2,000 people, has returned to the control of private equity specialists Alchemy Partners, which invests in distressed and underperforming businesses.

The move is the latest chapter in the firm's 50-year history and comes as it posted a £6.3m pre-tax loss for the year ending March 28 in its consolidated accounts, down from a £7.2m profit the year before.

But the EDP Top100 firm blamed machinery breakdowns and issues with online ordering for its challenges, and pointed towards an operating profit of £6m before depreciation of its assets, down from £11.7m in 2014.

The last couple of years has seen a number of changes at the top of the business, the latest of which saw chief executive Brian McCluskie join the company in September, following Martin Kellett's interim appointment in April.

Phil Tweedie, finance director at Anglian Group

Phil Tweedie, finance director at Anglian Group - Credit: Archant

The new ownership deal was finalised on December 21.

Group finance director Phil Tweedie said: 'Since joining the business Brian has successfully completed a re-financed change of ownership which has significantly reduced our debt and has provided the financial stability and resources to invest in our plans for growth.

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'We are delighted that Alchemy Partners has returned to become Anglian Group's majority shareholder as we celebrate 50 years of improving Britain's homes.'

Turnover for the year remained stable at £230.2m, edging up from £229.9m the year before, but order levels fell from £243.5m to £224.3m for the year to March.

Meanwhile, the firm said spending on marketing was reduced in the second half of the year to 'ensure customer orders were dealt with in a timely manner'.

Commenting on the difficult year, Mr Tweedie said: 'The results recently published reflect the manufacturing difficulties we experienced in 2014/15. Despite turnover remaining consistent year-on-year, unfortunately, a series of machinery breakdowns over a six-month period impacted on our profitability.

'These issues have since been addressed by the investment of over £2m on new equipment with additional funds planned over the next three years to further enhance our manufacturing facility.'

Anglian Home Improvements, which was founded in 1966 by George Williams as Anglian Windows, was listed for nearly 10 years, until it was taken private when Alchemy Partners bought it for £175m in 2001.

Seven years later, a syndicate, which included Bank of Scotland, Barclays, Lloyds TSB, Royal Bank of Scotland and Bank of America, took a majority control with a debt-for-equity rescue package that cut its debts by £90m.

There was talk of the company returning to the stock market in 2014, but the latest chapter has seen the group return to the control of Alchemy Partners.

As part of the latest financial restructuring, group debt was cut by £31.2m.

And the new ownership saw a shift in company organisation, with Anglian Home Improvements Group no longer the controlling company. New parent firm AHI Bidco Limited was incorporated on December 21.

A spokesman for the Anglian Group said: 'Alchemy previously held a majority stake in the group between 2001 and 2008.

'Since this time the group has been owned by a consortium of financial institutions and management has been looking to find one owner to provide the stability and investment it requires, ownership therefore transferred back to Alchemy in December 2015.'

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