Half-year results filed by parent company Ashtead Group show that Sunbelt UK rental revenue was down just 2% for the six months to 31st October 2020, while overall revenue was up 7% to £272.6 (2019 £255.9m) at a margin of 7% (2019: 12%).
Operating profit (before amortisation) was down a third to £20.0m (2019: £30.0m), reflecting a property impairment charge of £10m and the cost of re-branding the business from A-Plant to Sunbelt.
During the Covid-19 health crisis Sunbelt UK made not a single redundancy, the company says, put no one on furlough and sought no state aid, such is the strength of the business (although UK employee numbers dipped a little during the period from 3,712 to 3,600). A spokeman later clarified that although Sunbelt UK had indeed laid some people off during the period, none of these was specifically related to Covid-19 and would have been required anyway.
Including its much larger operations in North America, Sunbelt’s parent company Ashtead Group generated total revenue of £2,554m in the first half of its financial year, down 3%, and made a pre-tax profit of £506m, down 22%.
“Based on our half year performance and assuming no further significant adverse impact on our business resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic, we now expect full year results ahead of our previous expectations,” said chief executive Brendan Horgan. “The benefit we derive from the diversity of our products, services and end markets, coupled with ongoing structural change, enables the board to look to the future with confidence."
He added: “Looking forward, we believe that the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic will continue to give rise to market uncertainties over the coming months. However, with strong positions in all our markets, supported by good quality fleets and a strong financial position, we believe that we are well positioned to respond to this market uncertainty and continue to support our customers and team members as well as taking advantage of opportunities to invest for the longer-term strength of the business.”