Andrew Sykes Group, the Wolverhampton-based supplier of air conditioning equipment, has refreshed its stockholders with a special final dividend worth 14 pence per share.

The payout came despite a performance which saw pretax profit in the 53 weeks to December 31 fall to £12.4 million compared to £14.0 million in 2003.

Sales from continuing operations dipped to £ 62 . 7 million from £68.3 million last year.

The company described the results as " satisfactory, despite unfavourable weather conditions".

The company also said it intends to continue to buy back shares and will ask shareholders for permission to purchase up to 12.5 per cent of the ordinary shares in issue.

Andrew Sykes said its expectations for the first quarter are broadly similar to the last quarter of 2004, and it would expect the group to "achieve a better year in 2005".

Chairman Jacques Murray said: "2004 was a year of consolidation, reflecting a hiatus in the UK market place, exacerbated by an unusual combination of weather conditions: a warm winter, an extended period of low water tables caused by a year of low rainfall, and a cool summer.

"We continue to focus on controlling costs and realigning the cost base towards selling activity in order to be able to take advantage of any trading opportunities that become available.

"I consider the group has performed satisfactorily in a difficult trading environment and is well placed to compete in a competitive market sector."

Mr Murray said the hire business bore the brunt of last summer's cool temperatures. "Although all product ranges were affected due to adverse weather conditions, the lack of prolonged summer conditions in 2004 compared to the record temperatures of 2003 meant air conditioning was especially affected."

Despite a £ 1.6 million decrease in turnover, Accommodation Hire, the subsidiary that specialises in the hire of temporary accommodation units and toilet facilities, achieved an operating profit of a similar level to that in 2003.

Engineering Appliances, the specialist heating and ventilation business, saw turnover fall by £900,000 from £3.8 million to £2.9 million.

Meanwhile the group's heating and air conditioning business in the Netherlands had a successful year achieving an operating profit of £1.1 million compared to £900,000 last year. Its operation in the Middle East, Khansaheb Sykes, increased its profits to £400,000 from £300,000 last year.

Mr Murray said: "I remain confident that our strategy of continuing to concentrate on developing the UK specialist hire and rental market by organic growth supplemented by niche market acquisitions offers opportunity for further profit growth and added shareholder value."

He added: "The board proposes a final special dividend of 14 pence per share, to return surplus cash to shareholders. This will be paid on June 15 to shareholders on the register on May 13.

"Expectations for the first quarter are broadly similar to the last quarter of 2004.

"With costs under control the business is well positioned to take advantage of market opportunities as they arise.

"I would therefore expect the group to achieve a better year in 2005."