Vp’s results for the year ended 31st March 2021 show revenue down 15% to £308.0m (2020: £362.9m).
Fiscal 2020’s £28.4m pre-tax profit became a £2.3m loss this time.
Excluding amortisation and exceptional items, pre-tax profit was £23.3m (2020: £47.1m).
Chairman Jeremy Pilkington said: "I am pleased to be reporting a set of results that are ahead of our expectations in a year that has seen unprecedented challenges for the business and its customers. The past 12 months saw a focus on cash management which delivered a significant reduction in net debt.
“A relentless focus on cash management helped to reduce year end debt by £37.9m to £121.9m (2020: £159.8m),” said, “whilst at the same time enabling us to support specific high return on capital investment opportunities to the extent of £40.2m (2020: £49.1m).”
"We have exited the year at nearly pre-Covid levels which is a better recovery than we anticipated at the beginning of the pandemic. “
Vp initially participated in the government's job retention scheme but all use of furlough support was ended in October 2020. At no time did the company access government support loans or seek funding from shareholders.
Exceptional items included £15.1m in relation to regulatory review costs, restructuring costs and Covid-19 covenant amendments and an £11.2m fine from the Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) for breach of competition law by the Groundforce division. [See previous report here.] An exceptional cost of £4.5m was recorded in the 2019 accounts in anticipation of the CMA fine; the outstanding £6.6m has now been added in the 2021 accounts.
Chief executive Neil Stothard said: "The Covid-19 pandemic has brought out the very best in the business against the severest of backdrops and in response to a significant downturn in activity early in the last financial year, we took significant steps to de-risk the business by reducing costs. We finished the prior year well and I am pleased to confirm that we have maintained this into April and May of the new financial year, which has started strongly for us.
"Looking ahead, the market backdrop for Vp is positive. Our core markets of infrastructure, housebuilding and construction are showing positive signs of sustained growth. At the onset of the pandemic I said that we were entering a period of significant economic uncertainty with an excellent and financially robust business and we planned to exit with an equally strong business, which I believe has been achieved.
"Vp has proven over time and throughout other economic downturns that its business model can continue to deliver quality, market leading earnings, for our shareholders. We are excited about the prospects for the coming year which we approach with increasing confidence."