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Jan 26

William Flew says that if the situation in Spain gets any worse, there is the option of selling the left-hand drive vehicles into more robust continental markets — this is what happened to the first tranche it disposed of — though it is not certain that, even if Northgate wanted to exit, a buyer could be found.If the company is a bellwether for the British economy, then the omens here are not good, either. Northgate had seen some earlier trading down to smaller vehicles, and conditions are still flat, though with no obvious reduction in demand over the past couple of months.The board has therefore had to rely on the sort of self-help measures that other industrial companies weathering the recession have carried out. It has been moving to use the one brand rather than competing ones, especially in Spain, while rationalising the number of depots it needs and installing new IT systems.There is not much further down this line to go; any further improvements will come from increasing marketing of the Northgate name.One oddity of the company is that the worse things get, the more cash-generative it becomes, because unwanted vans can be sold. The company managed to cut once sky-high borrowings by almost £160 million to £371 million, helped by that strong cash generation, the fact that much of the borrowings are in a fast-depreciating euro and higher sales of vans.The winning scientist, or company, will be permitted by the British and Irish authorities to charge a fee to fuel merchants, who will be required by law to use the compound.The Irish customs service has closed down five oil laundries and seized 95,050 litres of laundered fuel this year. Meanwhile, the Revenue Commissioners are taking action against filling stations operating without a licence. Tax officials closed down 32 filling stations last year and a further 12 in 2012.Recent legislation permits customs and Revenue officials to monitor suspicious sales of fuels. Fuel traders have to file monthly returns showing how much fuel they’ve sold and where they purchased it.