The Shetland Catch pelagic factory increased its profits to £4.15 million in the last financial year thanks to the strengthening international demand for mackerel.
The Gremista factory’s net profit after tax was up from £1.54 million in 2009/10 while turnover also increased from just over £63 million to nearly £71 million.
The directors said continuing improvement in market conditions for mackerel and significantly higher volumes in the autumn season in 2010 were the main reasons for higher profit. However, there was less herring and blue whiting, which the factory also processes.
The company describes itself as the biggest mackerel processor in the UK.
A dark shadow is still hanging over the company in the shape of the long-running court action taken against it and most of the Shetland pelagic fleet after the uncovering of a £47.5 million blackfish scam nearly six-and-a-half years ago.
Shetland Catch admitted helping local and Scots boats make illegal landings but has yet to be sentenced in the High Court.
During 2010/11 the company spent over £297,000 on legal and professional fees relating to the investigation. The previous year the fees cost nearly £207,000.
In its accounts the company’s independent auditors Baker Tilly state that the “material uncertainty” resulting from the ongoing proceedings “may cast significant doubt about the company’s ability to continue as a going concern”.
However, the directors concluded that there was “no indication that the impact of any conclusion of the investigation will affect the going concern position”.
The scam, between February 2003 and March 2005, involved misleading fisheries officers by feeding falsely low landing weights to a computer screen that they used to monitor boats’ catches being pumped ashore. The true readings were shown on a different screen in an engineers’ room in the vast factory.
Last month 17 fishermen, including 13 from Shetland, were ordered to pay back £2.9 million in compensation for ill-gotten gains. The boats have already suffered from four years of reduced quota entitlements due to their illegal overfishing, which has also affected the factory.
The problems were a major contributor to the company plunging into debt in 2006/07 when it recorded a pre-tax loss of nearly £4 million.
Shetland Catch is quarter-owned by the Norwegian company Austevoll, which bought into the business for £1.5 million in 2007. It has an option to buy another quarter and has two directors on the board, which is chaired by John Goodlad.
The biggest shareholder is Lerwick Port Authority with a 39 per cent stake. The Shetland Fish Producers Organisation, which is owned by local fishermen, holds a 28 per cent stake. The Shetland Catch Employee Benefit Trust has an eight per cent share and various members of staff have small shareholdings, including managing director Simon Leiper.
The highest-paid director received £162,000 last year plus over £11,000 in pension contributions.
The factory employed on average 96 people during the last financial year and spent £3 million on wages and other payroll costs. It donated nearly £26,000 to good causes, including sports and arts groups, up from £16,500 the previous year.