A Jamaican rum-maker and Mexican tequila producer are among the global customers keeping Moray firm Forsyths busy in 2020, its chairman has said.
Richard Forsyth, whose grandfather laid the foundations for the diversified group in 1933, when he acquired a local brass and copperworks, highlighted continued demand for Forsyths’ equipment and services in locations far from its home in Rothes as cause for optimism.
Like most firms, Forsyths has had a difficult year because of Covid-19, and a plunge in oil prices early in 2020 did not help its oil and gas customers, but the group’s chairman was quietly confident about future prospects.
The firm has not had to make any redundancies to date, although “one or two” jobs are now at risk at a hotel it owns, he said.
He added: “It’s been a challenging year but we may be in a better position than most. We just have to keep working at it and trying to get through this difficult time.”
Forsyths manufactures copper stills and distillation equipment for drink distillers all over the world. It also fabricates goods for the oil and gas industry, as well as the nuclear sector.
The group employs about 400 people, including about 25 full and part-time staff at The Station Hotel in Rothes.
It acquired the then derelict property about five years ago and has since transformed it into a boutique hotel which attracts visitors from far and wide, including some of Forsyths’ clients, to the heart of Speyside.
The hotel reopened after lockdown but shut again amid the recent Scottish hospitality industry turmoil – Mr Forsyth hopes it will open again soon.
Group turnover for the year to October 31 2020 is expected to be similar to the previous 12 months, with profits significantly lower due to Covid-19.
Mr Forsyth, who was recently made an OBE, was speaking after 2018 Queen’s Award winner Forsyths posted accounts showing a large jump in pre-tax profits to £7.1 million during the year to October 31 2019, from about £4.7m in 2017-18.
Turnover rocketed to £52.9m in the latest period, from £46.8m previously.
Mr Forsyth said: “Our home and overseas distillation equipment business continues to flourish, and we had a steady year in servicing the oil and gas sector.
“Although Forsyths entered 2020 with a positive order book, it faces many challenges due to the effects of Covid-19 and the very low oil price currently experienced.”
He added: “Forsyths continues to move forward positively and reinvest in all divisions of the group.”
There has been a copperworks in Rothes since the mid 1850s and the present chairman’s grandfather, Alexander Forsyth, bought the business in 1933.
Forsyths nearly folded after the start of the Second World War but then saw boom times as the whisky industry thrived in the 1960s and 1970s.
The current managing director, also called Ricard Forsyth, is the fourth generation running the business.
The principal activities of the group are metal fabrication, electrical and plumbing contracting, joinery, building, scaffolding services, painting and shotblasting.
Its copper stills can be found in distilleries all over the world, but also closer to home in the Scottish whisky industry.