Despite a turbulent year in 2019, H and H Group PLC interim results for 2020 reveal a positive outlook.

The Group' EBITDA (Earnings before Interest, Tax, Depreciation and Amortisation) amounted to £889,136 for the six months to December 31, 2019, which resulted in a profit before tax of £302,000 against £154,000 for the corresponding period of turnover in 2018. Turnover increased by more than 5% from £6.8m to £7.3m.

“I am pleased to report that despite Brexit and the threat of Coronavirus, the first half of the year is showing a much-improved turnover and profit position over the same period as last year and we are expecting the second half to continue in a similar vein," said Richard Rankin, chief executive of the Group.

"Given the current unprecedented context we find ourselves at present, this is extremely encouraging news, and largely thanks to an extremely dedicated and resourceful team."

He added: “Our businesses are in good order, however, as we announce these interim results post Brexit, we are also fully aware that there are still uncertain times ahead.

"The ongoing threat of Coronavirus has also influenced decisions made in the budget, which unfortunately resulted in the agricultural sector not benefitting from the full support we were expecting as the virus and its consequences overtook 'normal business'.

“What remains a certainty, however, is that we, as a Group of companies, has supported the rural and farming industries for generations and will continue to do so, helping these businesses to be future-proof.”

Looking at the individual sectors of the Group, Mr Rankin said the farmstock business had seen a much more positive year with £92m worth of stock traded in the first six months, representing a 7.8% increase, with the sheep and dairy sector being particularly strong.

Cattle and sheep values in the autumn remained difficult but prices latterly have improved significantly, particularly in the sheep sector. The dairy sector had seen a rise in dispersals with more pedigree beef and sheep reduction and dispersals, all of which have attributed to the Group's half year ending well ahead of budget.

Meanwhile, the housing market is showing no signs of picking up and remains very challenging for H and H Land and Estates. The lettings business has nevertheless remained stable and is now looking to grow.

The professional land agency work continues to strengthen, and is now looking for more resource to continue expanding the business. Planning at Newtown St Boswells is taking longer than anticipated but it is expected to be on the local planning meeting agenda later in the year.

The Group's H and H Insurance Brokers has held its position well in what is a competitive market and while financial performance remains marginally below budget, it is to be addressed as the second half of the year progresses.

In terms of dividends and shares, the average share price in the period was £25.53 against £28.88 for the same period last year. The directors recommend an interim dividend of 5p per share and this will be paid on May 1, 2020 to those on the share register on April 10, 2020.