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By | Paul Kunert 21st February 2012 11:12

Blighty's first IT wholesaler swaps Henry for Henry

Northamber MD retires, accounts back in the red

Veteran distributor Northamber's long-sufferingserving managing director Henry Matthews has hung up his boots some 30 years after helping to set up the UK's first IT wholesaler.

The Reg caught wind of the departure in recent weeks but Northamber had refused to comment until today, confirming to the LSE, along with first half year numbers, that operations director John Henry has taken the vacant seat on the board with immediate effect.

"Henry Matthews has decided to retire after some 30 years with the company and relinquish the role of Managing Director," the firm said.

John Henry, who pitched up at Surrey-based Northamber in 1992 and was most recently GM, has certainly got a job of work ahead to return the distributor to its former glory of the '90s, when revenues surpassed the £300m mark.

In results for the half year to 31 December, sales slumped by a fifth to £53.8m while the distributor made an operating loss of £487,000 compared to a £75,000 profit from operations a year ago. Losses before tax were £418,000 compared to a profit of £151,000.

The revenue number does not include "discontinued very low margin bullet export sales", the distributor said, and it claimed that on a like-for-like comparable turnover was actually up 7 per cent.

Northamber began evaluating operations last year, "reviewing and then progressively discontinuing low margin sales, which though contributing turnover volume – after price erosion – had surpassed empty revenue and become costly."

The distie said its bottom line was not helped by "very significant costs" and it remained at the mercy of inflation. "They are 4 per cent higher than in the previous year, whilst the carriage cost component is 14 per cent higher, reflecting the increases in fuel and other charges," it said.

Northamber's colourful chairman David Phillips said against a backdrop of tumbling average sales prices "confidence in and expectation of any considerable improvement in the whole economic background has, if anything, declined".

"The obvious impact has been pressure on product prices and margins versus increasing costs. There is little justification for optimism in the short term and all that be stated is, as always, we are conscious of all these factors and their impact on our business," he added.

Debt-free Northamber made just £69,000 interest from its £13.2m sitting in the bank, which had helped to improve the financials in the years before the Bank of England slashed the base rate.

The Reg called John Henry last week to ask if he was succeeding Matthews. Henry sounded quite flustered, claimed he was in a meeting and insisted that he'd call back. ®

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