OPTICAL Express, the high street optician led by entrepreneur David Moulsdale, has claimed that turnover dropped by more than £30 million in its last financial year after business was “severely impacted by an extremely damaging article” published in national newspapers and online.

DCM (Optical Holdings), which owns the chain, makes the claim in a statement in accounts filed at Companies House. The accounts show that the Glasgow-based company booked a pre-tax loss of £14.9 million in the year ended December 26, compared with a £15.5m loss the year before. Turnover slid to £100.4m from £134m in 2014, with the company blaming “negative press” for the fall in revenue and for underlying losses, before exceptional items, widening to £7.1m from £1.2m in 2014.

Writing in the accounts, secretary Graeme Murdoch states: “Prior to the start of this financial year the directors planned for the business to deliver a substantial profit for FY (full year) 2015.

“However, from early January 2015, the performance of the Optical Express business and entire refractive surgery industry across the UK was severely impacted by an extremely damaging article that appeared in national newspapers and featured prominently on one of their online platforms. The business is currently litigating against a national newspaper over the false and misleading allegations made. As a result of the negative press, turnover declined from £134m in 2014 to £110.4m generating an EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) loss before exceptional expenses of £7.1m (£1.2m 2014).”

Directors at the eyecare specialist, whose clinics offer laser eye surgery, did not recommended a dividend for the period in question. An average of 1,147 staff were employed during the year, up from 1,357, while payroll costs dropped to £33.3m from £39.6m. Directors’ pay, excluding pension contributions, was little changed at £501,000.

Mr Murdoch said in the accounts that the business is “well placed to capitalise as consumer confidence in refractive in surgery returns”. He added: “The first half of the year has seen the business trade profitably and it is anticipated that FY 2016 will see the group return to profitability.”