J&J Denholm has reported a mixed start to 2021 after the combination of the pandemic and Brexit triggered a 25 per cent decline in profits last year across the shipping, seafood, logistics and industrial services business.
The Glasgow-based group – which earlier this month took over the logistics business of family-owned John Good – encountered various challenges across its four main divisions because of Covid, leading to what chief executive Ben MacLehose described as an “extraordinarily challenging” year. Turnover in 2020 fell marginally to £268.8 million from £270.1m, but increased costs pushed pre-tax profits down by a quarter to £8.8m.
In accounts filed with Companies House, Mr MacLehose said there “is no doubt” Brexit has added cost, bureaucracy and complication to a number of Denholm’s businesses, particularly in the seafood division. However, the group said it now appears that the overall impact could be neutral, with the increased cost of exporting fish to Europe offset by a rise in customs clearance work in its logistics division.
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Operating profit in the shipping business fell by £198,000 to £7.3m as the pandemic created difficulties and additional expense when changing crews. Meanwhile, the closure of the hospitality industry led to a collapse in prices for whitefish and prawns, though the processing side of the business traded well as European consumers responded to the pandemic by purchasing “subsistence” foods such as mackerel and herring.
Industrial services was most heavily impacted, racking up a loss of nearly £3.2m. Logistics suffered a range of repercussions during the year, but overall produced what was described as a “very credible result”.
Denholm is controlled by the descendants of the founder, John Denholm, who set up the business in Greenock in 1866. It employs about 1,100 people following the demerger of its oilfield services division, Denholm Energy, in 2015.