- FY revenue up 14 cent, PBT up 18 per cent
- EPS up 19 per cent, FY divi up 13 per cent
- 2014 in line, well placed for further growth
Strong demand from the offshore oil industry in Norway and developing markets enabled marine services group James Fisher to speed growth in the second half of the year and deliver 2013 results ahead of analyst expectations.
On revenues up 14% to £413.7m, underlying pre-tax profits (PTP) rose 18% to £41.4m and diluted earnings per share (EPS) by 19% to 65.5p.
Chief Executive Nick Henry pointed to organic growth and a good contribution from the March acquisition of diving equipment supplier Divex.
All four of the group's operating divisions contributed well, with Offshore Oil growing particularly strongly, benefitting from favourable market conditions in the North Sea as well as making significant progress in the new deep sea markets off Brazil and Africa.
Marine Support, the largest unit, expanded its ship-to-ship transfer and mooring operations as well as making good progress with the development of its support contracts and diving businesses. Operating profits fell 5.2% in this division though.
Reflecting an above-expectations first-time contribution from Divex, the Specialist Technical business almost doubled profits on sales up by a third. The Nuclear business within Specialist Technical also broadened its customer base significantly while producing another good result.
The Tankships unit continued its recent earnings gains with careful attention to costs and managing capacity to reflect the level of contract demand.
CEO Henry reflected the board's optimism about future trading: "Our niche businesses, which operate in demanding environments where their strong marine service and specialist engineering skills are valued and rewarded, have good growth prospects. James Fisher's strong balance sheet will enable us to invest in further organic growth opportunities and to make appropriate bolt-on acquisitions."
A statement from the company noted that the increased scale of the group and its enhanced international presence has reinforced its market position in offshore, marine and nuclear sectors, giving management confidence that the business will continue its recent pattern of growth "across a broad front".
There is particular optimism that demand remains strong in its offshore oil division while the specialist technical subsea and nuclear businesses have a healthy order book in a growing market, with the group's strong balance sheet used to invest further in organic growth opportunities and to continue with targeted acquisitions.
Trading so far in 2014 has been in accordance with management expectations, with all businesses said to be well placed to provide further growth and shareholder value.
Analysts at Investec said James Fisher has delivered "another strong performance in FY13, ahead of our forecasts and market expectations, helped by strong performances in all divisions".
The broker lifted its forecasts by around 8% at the PTP and EPS level for 2014 but though it downgraded its recommendation from 'buy' to 'add' due to the group's higher valuation, stressed "this remains a quality stock".