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DURBAN -  Argent Industrial blamed a difficult year caused by a depressed South African economy when it reported a R182.6million loss for the year to March. 
Last year it reported a profit of R63.43m.

The group said the “difficult year” resulted in a number of the local businesses being restructured, closed or impaired.

Going forward, however, the group said the restructuring and the expected returns on the group’s overseas operations would hold it in good stead in the year ahead.

In the results it reported a 1.08percent decline in revenue to R1.83billion, from R1.85bn, while operating loss came to R192.1m, compared with an operating profit of R106m reported last year.

Headline earnings a share increased by 10.34percent to 76.8cents a share, from 69.6c when compared with last year.

The group declared a dividend of 21c a share from income reserves, up by 10.53percent from last year’s 19c.

The group's earnings were adversely affected by an unrealised foreign exchange loss of R5.6m; labour unrest at Toolroom, one of its companies, of R2.6m; retrenchments of R5.1m and an increase in the Hendor/Numsa accrual of R869000.

“The outlook remains positive, especially with the favourable result of the ANC elective conference at Nasrec in December 2017. It appears that spending by the government and the state-owned enterprises will be better controlled, and this will result in more funds flowing into our industry,” the group said.

In the manufacturing business, it said its three overseas companies had been the major contributor to this sector, making a combined profit of R27.2m before taxation, which includes a R5.7m unrealised foreign exchange loss.

In the steel division, the group said the sector was still not the easiest of business sectors in South Africa. However, the sector did manage to make a positive contribution of R10.4m before taxation.

Under the properties sector the group sold its Jetmaster property for R33.5m and its Cedar Paint property in Silverton, Pretoria, for R24m, and the transfer is expected to take place in August.

“Currently, we have the Xpanda Jhb and Klerksdorp properties for sale. However, both properties are proving to be a challenge. We also plan to sell the Parlance property. The three properties are in our books for R22.8m,” the group said.

It said that it had impaired four of the Johannesburg properties by an amount of R27.7m, three of them due to receiving lower offers or indicative offers.

“The Phoenix Steel Gauteng property was revalued, along with the balance of the steel sector assets,” the group said.