The 2012 accounts of Ineos Chemicals Grangemouth, filed a month ago, say a "relatively weak" trading performance in the Ineos European business is expected to continue over the next few years. The value of the Grangemouth assets was written down from £396m to zero, and a £464m loan from Ineos Europe was written off.
But one leading tax expert commented that this would wipe out significant depreciation and finance costs over the next few years. "It looks as though the company should be quite profitable in future, if you take the current profit and add back the fact there will be no depreciation and no interest," he said. "That is the implication of all the write-offs in 2012."
Last year the company - founded by Ineos owner Jim Ratcliffe, who is personally worth £680m - made a £7.1m profit and a £68m exceptional gain from the write-offs.
The total £75m pre-tax profit was doubled to an after-tax profit of £151m by the addition of a 'deferred tax credit' - which can only be put in the accounts if the company expects to make sufficient taxable profits in future.
Last week Ineos released figures approved by its auditors PricewaterhouseCoopers which claimed to show the company had racked up losses totalling £579m over the past four years.
It showed a surplus of net earnings over the past six years of £186m, and the earnings deficit being cut to £5m - one-tenth of its level in 2011. Significantly, the company's four-year figures include £469m of capital expenditure.
PwC, according to the company, had confirmed the figures were "properly extracted from the company's accounts".
Aidan McLaughlin, tax expert at McLaughlin Crolla in Glasgow, commented: "Investment is usually a separate matter - one should not, generally, confuse day-to-day trading with long-term investment - the cost of which may cover assets intended to last say 25 years or more."
Richard Murphy at Tax Research UK said: "There is no accounting basis on earth which presents figures in that way."
Mr Murphy produced a report last week for the Unite union which claimed Ineos could make profits of £500m by 2017.
The 2012 Grangemouth accounts also show a reduction from £42m to £35m in the deficit of the final salary pension scheme which the firm wants to close, and a pensions turnaround last year to a £407,000 accounting surplus from a £6.7m loss.
Nobody at Ineos was available for comment.