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Whisky firm hit by losses ahead of pricing move

LOCH Lomond Distillery Company, part of Sandy Bulloch's drinks empire, has fallen to a £199,000 pre-tax loss even before the introduction of minimum pricing of alcohol which the company has claimed will hit sales of its flagship High Commissioner blended whisky.

The company, which is based in Alexandria, West Dunbartonshire, saw turnover rise 0.9% over the year to the end of March 2012 to £18.5 million.

But with costs rising, a £296,000 pre-tax profit for 2011 was turned into a near £200,000 loss.

The gross margin fell from 2.96% to 0.84%.

However, net debt dropped by £3.9m over the year to £7.1m.

The directors said in their review: "2012 proved to be a demanding year and the directors are satisfied with the performance of the company. With continuous investment in plant and machinery at the site, the company is looking to further improve the margin in future years."

One of its key products is High Commissioner blended whisky, the fifth most popular brand in the UK. But minimum pricing could see its price rise by more than 50% to £14 a bottle. The distillery also produces Glen's Vodka.

As well as its distillery, the company has interests in bonded warehouses, wine and spirit wholesaling and spirit broking.

Loch Lomond Distillery warned workers earlier this year that minimum pricing could hit demand for High Commissioner.

Over the summer Loch Lomond Distillery transferred about 16 posts to a job agency in a cost-saving exercise.

During the financial year to March 2012, Loch Lomond distillery employed an average of 65 people, down from 67 in 2011.

The Bulloch family bought the Loch Lomond distillery in 1985, then added a set of grain stills in 1993 to allow both grain and malt whiskies to be produced.

The Glen Catrine Bonded Warehouse plant in Ayrshire bottles whisky, vodka, gin and rum for other businesses.

The Bulloch family can trace its origins in the drinks trade back to a whisky wholesale business in Glasgow in 1842.

The Scottish Parliament's plans for 50p-a-unit is the subject of a challenge in the European Union by the whisky industry.

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