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Exclusive: Balmoral’s offshore outlook positive despite ‘toughest period’

Jim Milne, chairman and managing director of Balmoral
Jim Milne, chairman and managing director of Balmoral

Balmoral Group stayed in the black last year despite having to endure one of the toughest operating periods in its boss’s memory.

Balmoral chairman Jim Milne said the 21% fall in turnover to £105million for the year to March 31, 2017, was “disappointing”.

But the turnover figure was still the third highest in the company’s history.

Pre-tax profits dropped 55% to £18.6million as the Aberdeen-headquartered company tussled with “challenging market conditions” in all business sectors.

Mr Milne, who is also the firm’s managing director, said conditions were still difficult, but that continued investment had helped it “stay ahead of the competition”.

Mr Milne said he was “optimistic” that Balmoral’s offshore-related business would pick up against a backdrop of stabilising oil prices and long-delayed projects being sanctioned.

Balmoral said in its latest accounts that its new subsea test facility opened in Aberdeen this year.

A £20million investment, the centre houses a new manufacturing facility, research and development laboratories and a hyperbaric test facility.

In September, Balmoral said it had agreed to invest £10million in Aberdeenshire firm Ace Winches in return for an undisclosed stake in the business.

Balmoral’s tanks division, which specialises in liquid storage and treatment products, will move into a new £10million-plus facility in South Yorkshire next month.

Mr Milne said the new base’s offering would put Balmoral in a “very strong position to tackle the North American market”.

He said: “Our export sales remain strong at some 75% of turnover and our employee numbers are stable with no major job losses taking place, despite working through the toughest operating period I can remember.”

Balmoral, founded in 1980, employs about 500 people.

Balmoral also said the Aberdeen commercial property market remained “very difficult”, as the value of unoccupied land and buildings owned by the group decreased by £2.3million.

Mr Milne said: “I don’t think we are alone in saying that 2016/17 was particularly tough but I believe we weathered the storm and finished the period free of net debt and with a cash balance of more than £32million.

“We have a very positive outlook and a strong team here at Balmoral. We will continue our focus on offering the very best products in the market combined with innovative thinking and collaborative working and are very much looking forward to 2018.”

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