BANKNOTE printer De La Rue has revealed a 73% rise in profits as it ploughs tens of millions of pounds into its North East factory.
But the company, which prints notes for the Bank of England and 150 other countries, refused to comment on wide speculation that it is preparing to start making drachmas in case Greece crashes out of the eurozone.
De La Rue, whose biggest factory employs 400 staff in Gateshead, said underlying profits rose to £57.7m in the year to the end of March as it benefited from a recovery plan.
Its plan, which aims to push profits from £63.1m up to £100m by 2014, includes shutting its plant in Bedfordshire and moving the work up to its plant in Team Valley by March next year.
It is investing tens of millions of pounds and creating another 100 jobs in Gateshead.
Orders at its currency business were up 18% to £183m although it warned the market is becoming more competitive as rivals add additional capacity. The company is reported to be preparing to print an alternative Greek currency, and has retrieved old moulds of drachma notes. But yesterday chief executive Tim Cobbold refused to comment on the rumours.
He said: “We have been far more successful in the marketplace than we have been in the past few years – of all the notes issued in 2011, we designed one in two, right across the world.
“We have a commitment to the North East workforce and we are putting a lot of investment in there. We have just put in a new print line and our plan is very good news for Gateshead where we have a fantastic workforce.”
The initiative followed a scandal in 2010 when it was claimed employees had falsified paper specification test certificates, which led to the resignation of its former chief executive.
The company said discussions are ongoing with the customer involved in the incident – believed to be the Reserve Bank of India – and the financial impact of the issues remains “uncertain”.
De La Rue has sites in the UK at Overton in Hampshire, where the problems with the bank note contact surfaced, as well as Loughton in Essex, Gateshead, Bathford near Bath and Westhoughton, Lancashire.
Bottom-line profits were down 55% to £32.9m after being hit by the rising price of cotton from which it makes notes and the cost of its improvement plan and as it came up against tough comparisons the previous year when it benefited from the sale of its stake in lottery provider Camelot.
Investec Securities raised its earnings forecast for the current year by £400,000 to £84.4m after yesterday’s results.