Profits have cooled at the Andrew Sykes Group, the Wolverhampton air conditioning and hire firm largely owned by Jacques Gaston Murray.
Revenue for the six months to June 30, 2009 was £28.8 million compared with £33.9 million a year earlier. But because of fixed costs the decrease had a disproportionate effect causing operating profit to slump by nearly a quarter to £6.6 million. The company’s fixed air conditioning installation business was badly affected by the economic downturn as potential customers deferred capital expenditure.
To be fair, 2008 was a record year for Andrew Sykes and the company is now concentrating on cost control and reducing net debt.
And in any case, 90-year-old non-executive vice-chairman Jacques Gaston Murray has seen plenty of recessions come and go in the past.
His other business is West Yorkshire-based London Security plc, one of Europe’s leading fire protection businesses, which has also found things difficult this last year or so.
He has been a British national since just after the Second World War. He was born in Paris and studied architecture at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. He was called up in 1940 and when France surrendered to Germany he made his way to England where he joined the Royal Air Force, flying 38 missions as a navigator.
After the war he returned to France, but returned to England to embark on a distinguished business career. His involvement with fire extinguishers began in 1961 when he invested in a business which became General-Incendie SA, one of France’s largest fire extinguisher companies.
He is a 98.5 per cent shareholder in Leeds-based London Security plc, which turns over more than £65 million a year and makes consistent profits. He is an 84.7 per cent shareholder in the Andrews Sykes Group which was formed in 1857 and has more than 30,000 customers. Much of its business is weather dependant, so the company is aiming to move into other areas.
As well as these two businesses, the Murray family has a property portfolio and other assets.