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Whyte & Mackay cheers profit rise

PRE-TAX profit at Whyte & Mackay, the whisky company caught up in a recent deal between Vijay Mallya's United Spirits and drinks giant Diageo, soared 24% to £15.4 million last year but it is still at half the level of two years ago.

GOOD HEALTH: United Spirits owner Vijay Mallya agreed for Diageo to take a stake in his group. Picture: Colin Mearns
GOOD HEALTH: United Spirits owner Vijay Mallya agreed for Diageo to take a stake in his group. Picture: Colin Mearns

Accounts filed with Companies House revealed that Glasgow-based Whyte & Mackay posted a 35.5% rise in sales to £229.8m for the year to March 31.

But while sales are ahead of two years ago, pre-tax profit at Whyte & Mackay is still some way off the £31.7m it recorded in 2010.

This suggests it is not reaping the full benefit of the generally upward trajectory of Scotch whisky exports as consumers in developing markets such as China and Venezuela develop a taste for the spirit.

While Whyte & Mackay is succeeding in building turnover, its costs of sales have also risen, reducing the impact on the bottom line.

Its EBITDA margin (earnings before interest taxation, depreciation and amortisation) was down from 26% to 22% year on year, which the company attributed to an unspecified change in its business mix.

It was also hit by £3.4m of exceptional charges, up from £1.4m in 2011.

Nearly half of this came from taking lease provisions on properties in Edinburgh and Glasgow after sub-letting them at a discount.

Whyte & Mackay spent £624,000 on redundancy costs, up from £139,000, although overall employee numbers rose from an average of 479 to 496 over the year.

It also wrote off a £50,000 investment in Polish vodka brand Snow Leopard.

Meanwhile, the company has established Whyte & Mackay Americas as a subsidiary to market and distribute its brands in the United States.

Mr Mallya paid £393m for Whyte & Mackay in 2007. But its future remains uncertain after Mr Mallya signed a deal with Diageo last month that will see the London-based owner of Johnnie Walker whisky take a stake of up to 53.4% in his United Spirits business.

Diageo chief executive Paul Walsh said in November that he sees no reason why the group would have to sell Whyte & Mackay, which has four distilleries.

However, some in the industry think the companies could be forced to sell some whisky brands by the competition authorities.

Others wonder whether Diageo, which has brands such as Buchanan and Bell's, would be interested in retaining Whyte & Mackay's stable.

Whyte & Mackay owns the Jura and Dalmore single malt brands and Glayva liqueur.

Of potential interest to buyers is its stock of whisky.

The company had £122.4m of maturing whisky stocks at the end of the year, up from £11.6m a year earlier.

It also had an inventory of £11.5m of finished goods, up from £6.4m.

In July 2011, Whyte & Mackay replaced a £137m term loan with an inter-company loan. There is a three-year moratorium on the repayment of the principal.

Whyte & Mackay saw the deficit on its pension scheme rise from £745,000 to £6.3m over the year, despite additional annual contributions of £2m.

Whyte & Mackay did not respond to a request for comment.

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