Gaskell Poised to Restore Dividend

Article excerpt

Byline: Cheryl Cole

Shares in Gaskell were yesterday on the march after it said two years of restructuring had left it strong enough to concentrate on restoring its dividend.

The Lancashire carpet maker said that with a much stronger balance sheet and no significant debt, the group has a much more secure platform from which to move forward.

Having survived its worst two years of trading, chief executive Gerry Wheeler said that, without the distraction of severe cash restraints the group, could now look at restoring shareholdervalue in a reasonable timescale. He added: 'The worst is behind us, but what we cannot do is sit tight and batten down the hatches and watch the world go by.

'We have growth very much in our minds and will work hard to restore our dividend policy and shareholder value.

'We don't have a time frame set out, but it is very much at the top of the pile of considerations.'

Gaskell has spent the last two years selling off underperforming parts of the business as it struggled to generate cash from sales at its carpet and underlay businesses based in Kidderminster.

It restructured into three divisions - Gaskell Wool Rich, branded retail woven carpet, its underlay division Gaskell Textiles and Gaskell Carpets, its distribution division, shedding 431 jobs in the process.

In January it was also forced to sell the 'jewel in its crown,' its tile business, to rival Low & Bonar and hawk its Kidderminster freehold to pay off its debts and dodge receivership.

Most of its problems stemmed from the its ill-advised foray into Kidderminster with the acquisition of Tomkinsons which it bought in September, 1999.

The unit was subsequently put up for sale last March following heavy losses in 2001. …