The last time flooring group James Halstead failed to raise its dividend was when Harold Wilson was Prime Minister. That was in the mid-1970s, some 45 years ago.
The board juggled payments last year in response to the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic, but was ultimately able to raise the dividend to a new record of 14.25p, marking almost half a century of unbroken growth.
The decision reflects Halstead’s culture as a family-style business that combines financial conservatism and product innovation.
Founded in 1915, the business is still run by a scion of the original family, Mark Halstead, and still operates out of Greater Manchester.
Set in stone: The last time flooring group James Halstead failed to raise its dividend was when Harold Wilson (pictured) was Prime Minister
Today Halstead’s floors are sold to customers right across the globe, all the way from Scott Base in Antarctica to Svalbard Hotells in northern Norway.
The company invented vinyl sheet flooring, known as Polyflor, in the 1940s and this remains the cornerstone of its success, used in schools, stations, offices, shops and homes in 180 countries worldwide.
Hospitals are major customers too. About a quarter of Halstead’s revenue comes from the healthcare sector and virtually every NHS trust uses its flooring, as do hundreds of Covid-care and vaccination facilities worldwide.
A focus on healthcare helped Halstead to withstand the worst effects of the pandemic, while its ability to adapt quickly to changing circumstances allowed the firm to gain market share from larger rivals.
In a trading update earlier this month, Halstead said he expected record results for the year to June 30, 2021, with analysts looking for a 7 per cent increase in sales to £255million and an 11 per cent rise in profits to £49million.
Further growth should be forthcoming this year and beyond. The group has been making strong gains in America, with medical facilities particularly attracted to the firm’s hard-wearing and well-priced vinyl flooring.
Other international markets are in Halstead’s sights, too. Overseas expansion was curtailed during the pandemic, but is gradually regaining momentum and should deliver results as travel becomes less challenging.
Closer to home, Halstead’s luxury vinyl tiles, which look like wood or stone, are increasingly popular among homeowners, not just in kitchens and bathrooms but also in home offices and gyms.
Like most manufacturers, the group has been hit by a shortage of raw materials, as well as higher shipping costs and absenteeism among employees exposed to the coronavirus.
While these may create some short-term issues, the firm’s long-term prospects remain robust.
Midas verdict: Midas recommended James Halstead shares in November 2018 at £3.72. They have risen 55 per cent since then to £5.50 and should continue to gain ground. A proud British business with a global reputation, Halstead has repaid shareholders handsomely. A strong, long-term hold.
Traded on: AIM Ticker: JHD Contact: jameshalstead.com or 0161 767 2500
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Winning tip: A zen Christmas with disco karaoke, Japan
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Silk Road: Samarkand to Baku
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Mountain overload, Georgia
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