SHARES in Interbulk, where Jim McColl is on the board with a 3.6 per cent stake, have drooped to a four-year low as the company unveiled a £728,000 first-half loss before tax, compared with last year's £886,000.

Underlying operating profit slipped from £3.81m to £3.46m, but net debt was reduced from £74.9m to £66.4m, including £3.1m in the first half.

The logistics group said revenues were two per cent lower than in the first half of last year, as manufacturing closures in the polymer industry impacted the dry bulk business and more than offset growth in liquid bulk.

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In April Interbulk warned that dry bulk, which ships plastic pellets used by the chemical industry and the construction sector, had been hit by weakness in European plastics markets across most of its customer base. It has now confirmed the shedding of 18 jobs, mainly at Hull, with exceptional costs of £800,000, though the savings should amount to £900,000 annually.

Interbulk said the £350,000 decline in operating profit was partially offset by a £200,000 reduction in interest costs from paying down debt, leading to a profit before tax and exceptionals "only slightly behind the comparable period last year".

Growth in liquid bulk saw continued expansion of the tankcontainer fleet while on-site terminal activities within dry bulk performed ahead of last year, partially mitigating the decline in door-to-door transportation.

The group said restructuring initiatives had gained support across the organisation and secured significant savings for the second half of the year, boosting competitiveness. The shares fell 0.38p to 3.88p, valuing the group at £17m.