Poor commodity prices hit W&R Barnett's sales

Animal feed firm W&R Barnett has sustained a drop in turnover

GRAIN and animal feed producer W&R Barnett has seen turnover slashed by 14 per cent due to lowering global commodity prices.

However, with sales of more than £815 million, it is still one of Northern Ireland's largest companies.

Financials published at Companies House show profits on ordinary activities before tax were £29.8m for the year to July 2015 - down 6.3 per cent on the previous 12 months.

The annual accounts cover the entire W&R Barnett group.

The firm was founded in 1896 but has grown significantly from its beginnings as a grain merchant.

It is parent company to a wide number of firms - chief executive William Barnett is listed as having 55 directorships - trading in grains, derivatives, oils and molasses. It also operates dockside facilities, the manufacture of animal feeds and horse breeding.

Subsidiaries - some of which are jointly owned with Origin Enterprises - include United Molasses, feeds firms Thompsons and R&H Hall and corrugated packaging company Logson.

Directors said, "both the level of business during the year and the financial position at the year end were satisfactory".

The fourth-generation family business was recently named the north's top owner-managed or family firm by Ulster University and accountants Harbinson Mullholland.

The company employs 512 staff, making its overall wage bill just over £28m.

Directors' pay totalled totalled £2m with the highest paid receiving £469,170.

Dividends of £1.9m were paid during the year, against £1.2m for 2014.

The company's balance sheet listed total shareholders' funds at £165.8m, up from £161.5m the previous year.

The company has experienced massive growth over the last number of years. As recently as 2013, turnover hit £500m for the first time.

Of the dozens of associated companies listed in notes with the annual accounts, many are far from the shores of Britain and Ireland.

Firms - mainly concerned with molasses - are incorporated in countries across western Europe and others as far flung as Trinidad, Korea and the Philippines.

Last month, it was revealed W&R Barnett operated BHH Ltd, a joint venture with Origin Enterprise, had sustained a 9.7 per cent contraction in turnover to £232.6m.

The animal feed firm has subsidiaries that include Thompsons.

Meanwhile, another of Barnett's and Origin's joint ventures, R&H Hall has also reported a drop in turnover, down 17.3 per cent to £84.3m for the year to July.

The directors of the grin and feed firm said they "expect that the company will continue to grow and maintain current profitability levels".

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