Annual profits at international energy logistics specialist Asco Group have been hit by the impact of a warehouse fire in the US.
The results for 2009, which have just been released, show pre-tax profits fell to £1.65million from £3.25million the year before.
There were nearly £3.2million of exceptional costs in the 2009 figures, however, as a result of the settlement of claims and professional fees relating to the major fire in October 2008 in a warehouse at the group’s freight-management business in Houston.
Aberdeen-based Asco was facing claims for damage to customers’ goods stored in the warehouse and, although the group did not admit liability, the board decided to come to a mediated settlement to avoid a protracted and expensive legal process.
The results also show a £60million fall in annual turnover to £391.8million.
Asco said this was because of a significant drop in the average fuel price and reduced vessel rates.
Despite a difficult trading environment caused by global economic conditions, the company reported that earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (ebitda) for 2009 held up well at £27.2million, similar to the year before.
Outwith the UK, Asco has operations in Norway, Holland, America, Canada, Trinidad, Singapore and the Caspian and employs more than 1,500 people worldwide.
Chief executive Billy Allan said: “2009 could be seen as a defining year for Asco. We started with a global lack of certainty and markets suffered a liquidity crisis unknown in recent years.
“It would have been easy to bury our heads, however, we took the initiative to continue investing in our people and infrastructure, ensuring the long-term sustainability of our business.
“There is no doubt that 2008 was a good year for Asco. Given the economic backdrop in 2009, it is a testament to the strength of our business that we have produced a set of results at the ebitda level that are in line with 2008. This also reflects the commitment of our staff.”
Chairman Mike Salter said: “Despite the downturn, the Asco management team took an entirely positive and optimistic view of the future.
“The team have remained focused on the long term, ignoring much of the noise around short-term fluctuations in the business cycle.
“Although the overall environment remains challenging, the positioning we undertook during 2009 should bear fruit in the short to medium term as the market eases and opportunities present themselves.”
Mr Allan said he was very much encouraged by the increase in activity during the first half of 2010, and all the indications were that this would continue.
“This gives us confidence in our ability to deliver against our budgets this year, particularly if energy prices remain at current levels,” he added.