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J&J Denholm's referendum fears

GLASGOW-based conglomerate J&J Denholm has lifted pre-tax profits by 8.5 per cent to £22.1 million in its latest financial year, but warned Scottish independence would damage its business.

Denholm, which said the results featured a strong showing by its oilfield services division in the Middle East, fears it will not be able to count on the Foreign Office and Royal Navy support it currently receives should Scotland become independent.

Pre-tax profits in its key oilfield division, focused around the Middle East, Caspian Sea and North Sea, increased by 36 per cent to £16.2m, with Denholm stating its Abu Dhabi operation had "come of age". Together with improved performances in Azerbaijan and the UK, this had offset an anticipated slowdown in Kazakhstan.

Chief executive John Denholm, who has previously declined to comment on the referendum, said: "We rely on the Foreign Office to be there to back us in the countries we operate [in], we rely on the Royal Navy to protect ships on the high seas. And we don't believe that an independent Scotland can possibly afford such a comprehensive Foreign Office network or such a large navy.

"It's very straightforward to us that these parts of our business will become more exposed in an independent Scotland."

Mr Denholm, who also criticised the uncertainty caused by the referendum, was speaking as Denholm posted its results for the year ending December 31, during which turnover rose to £363m from £348m in 2012.

The company's results for 2012 had reflected an upsurge in maintenance work in the former Soviet Republic due to a cyclical spike related to oil refinery shutdowns, which was not replicated in 2013.

The oilfield services arm reported a 22 per cent rise in operating profits to £15.4m as it benefited from its new steel fabrication yard in Abu Dhabi.

Mr Denholm said the division, whose main contract last year was to manufacture modular steel buildings for an Abu Dhabi development company, was picking up contracts in light of an upsurge in construction work in the Emirate. It is also providing steel to the Dubai Eye, and for a project in the Middle East where oil rigs are being replaced by artificial islands.

Mr Denholm noted the energy services division was "exceedingly busy" in Aberdeen, and also winning work from the growth in construction projects in Kazakhstan.

Elsewhere, Mr Denholm praised the performance of the "unsung heroes" of the group, as operating profits rose at its logistics, industrial services, seafood and shipping businesses.

The year also saw Denholm offload a 50 per cent stake in its Caspian plant hire business to Speedy Hire for about £3m

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