AGA Rangemaster, the consumer brands Group, today provides a trading update prior to the release of the preliminary results for the year ended 31st December 2009 on Friday 12th March 2010.
Trading improved in the last quarter of 2009 as markets recovered from the particularly weak conditions earlier in the year. The Group expects to report a full year profit before tax for 2009 including rationalisation costs and interest and pension credits.
Throughout 2009 we continued to invest in our brands and products in preparation for a more stable market. Order intake for the full year was 12% below the prior year having been around 20% down in the first half. The improving order levels meant that the Group's order books finished the year above those of a year ago.
The Group's net cash balance increased to over £25 million at 31st December 2009, significantly exceeding its target to have more cash at the end of the year than the starting position of £5.8 million. This strong cash position resulted from our working capital and cost cutting initiatives, to a net tax repayment and a trading pick up late in the year.
Cast iron cooker sales were well down in the year. Orders and home surveys for our AGA and Rayburn brands were up in the last quarter of the year compared with the prior year whilst remaining down for Stanley in Ireland. Sales of wood-burning stoves were strong in the UK and resilient in Ireland.
Rangemaster had a good second half which left order intake for the full year just ahead of 2008 having been around 14% lower at the half year. In North America orders were still weak although the lower cost base following the factory rationalisation enabled our refrigeration business to trade at breakeven in the second half of the year. Fired Earth orders remained down on a year ago as customers deferred major projects in an uncertain market.
Rationalisation programmes continued across the Group - notably with further integration of the Aga and Rangemaster operations in the UK - and those measures have brought cost reductions of over £9 million over the last two years.
Steps to manage the costs of the Pension Scheme continue to be taken. The pensionable salaries of higher paid employees were frozen at the end of 2009 and those of the wider membership are being frozen in 2010. Both measures give rise to curtailment gains. An actuarial valuation of the Pension Scheme is due to be concluded by the end of March 2010.
William McGrath, Chief Executive, commented:
"We successfully strengthened our cash position and cut costs in the difficult markets of 2009 while continuing to invest in our products which leaves us well placed in an upturn. The cold weather highlights the virtues of our modern ranges of cast iron cookers, all-in-one cookers and boilers and stoves. The bounce in Rangemaster sales has been particularly encouraging. Caution, however, remains appropriate in the current economic climate."
- ENDS -
William McGrath, Chief Executive, AGA Rangemaster Group plc - 01926 455731
Simon Sporborg/Charlotte Kenyon, Brunswick Group - 020 7404 5959