Profits fall at SME lender Bibby as ‘banks return’

Bibby Line Group, which has interests in retail, shipping, marine and logistics as well as small business lending saw pre-tax profits fall to £36.2m last year, down from £55.7m in 2011, its latest accounts show.

This was despite an increase in turnover from £1.3bn to £1.4bn over the same period. The company blamed issues such as “extremely bad shipping markets” as well as a rise in bad debts and overheads in its SME lending arm for the “difficult year”.

Bibby Financial Services, which advances cash against invoices to small and medium-sized companies, provides the vast majority of the group’s profits. It saw pre-tax profit fall from £41m to £34m, reports The Telegraph.

The division was hit by margin pressure as banks “to some extent” returned to the SME lending market, increased bad debts and an investment programme in its systems.

The lending arm has implemented a number of changes in its senior management. Its accounts said “client satisfaction” among small firms and “employee engagement continued to be high, despite a very negative campaign by a former client”.

This was a reference to retired Norfolk businessman Rene Greville, who is running an aggressive online protest against Bibby.

The company said 2012 was a “stepping stone to greater things”.

Sir Michael Bibby, the company’s managing director, said: “Although 2012 was a difficult year with reduced profitability, in part due to market conditions and our investment in developing long-term value, the hard work of our businesses is already bearing fruit in 2013.”