Vertu Motors has come under attack for saying it will pay its shareholders dividends while at the same time keeping furlough cash.
The listed dealer group told the London Stock Exchange on Wednesday (Oct 13) it made an adjusted pre-tax profit of £51.8m for the six months to August 31, 2021.
The figure was up considerably from the £4.7m it made in the same half-year period in 2020 (FY21), and the £16.9m profit the year before.
As a result, it will make an interim dividend payment of 0.65p per ordinary share on January 21, 2022.
The rocketing profit came on the back of pent-up demand for cars.
But Vertu also pocketed £400,000 this year under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme on top of a whopping £28m furlough cash in 2020, said the Financial Mail on Sunday today (Oct 17).
It reported an unnamed top industry executive as calling the decision about the dividend payment ‘just not acceptable’.
Other dealership groups such as Marshall, Lookers and Inchcape have repaid the government support.
Marshall Motors chief executive Daksh Gupta wouldn’t be drawn directly about Vertu.
However, he was quoted by the Financial Mail on Sunday as saying: ‘We were the first group to pay it back and others followed our lead.
‘To make super profits by taking taxpayer money and benefiting massively from Covid-related tailwinds feels wrong.
‘We said we would not pay a dividend without paying back the support.’
He said the board discussion about it lasted ‘45 seconds’.
Forrester said: ‘The government closed down our businesses by diktat with very little warning, causing considerable disruption and dislocation and they provided financial support to offset that.
‘That was what the support was there for – to make sure we didn’t come out of it in a much weaker position than we went in.’
You can watch the video interview in full above.
Forrester also spoke about the company’s latest results in an interview with James Batchelor, which you can watch below.