Importer distributor James Latham plc has reported a £2.5m rise in annual profits to £8m and unveiled a new investment programme for its depots.

The 43.3% rise for the year to March 31 came on sales of £130m, a 12.8% increase on the previous year.

Operating profits were more than 25% ahead at just over £8m.

Chairman Peter Latham said the results reflected greater stability in the international hardwood and panel products markets.

“Hardwood prices remained steady and panel prices continued to strengthen from the low levels seen during the winter of 2008-09, particularly during the first six months of this year,” he said. “MDF-based panels, a major element of panel sales, saw prices rise due to an increase in the cost and availability of raw materials, rather than rising demand.”

He said that latest spending and its acquistion of hardwood specialist importer DLH UK Ltd had strengthened the company’s outlook.

“We’ve increased resources in areas where we’ve identified opportunities for growth, such as hardwood flooring, door blanks and decorative panels,” he said. “And DLH UK, has been successfully integrated and will trade separately as LDT (Latham Direct Timber) principally in African and South-east Asian hardwood and decking, which will increase sales opportunities.”

Latham has also invested in its Hemel Hempstead and Thurrock depots to develop its door blanks and decorative panels business and now intends to upgrade other sites “to mirror the success which investment in new facilities has delivered elsewhere”.

“There are [also] plans in the current year to relocate the company’s largest business in Ossett, near Leeds to another site in the same area,” said Mr Latham. “This will have a short-term impact on profitability of that depot during the transition, however the company is in a strong financial position to take advantage of opportunities to continue growing the business.”