Global turmoil sends profits tumbling at scrap firm

Liverpool scrap metal specialist S Norton Group says global turmoil has sent annual pre-tax profits plummeting from more than £66m to just under £2m. Tony McDonough reports

Tony Hayer
Tony Hayer, managing director of S Norton Group


Annual revenues and profits at Liverpool family scrap firm S Norton Group have plummeted amid ongoing global turmoil.

Based in Regent Road in the city’s northern docklands, the business collects, processes and distributes around 1.5m tonnes of recycled metals each year. In 2021 it generated a record turnover of £490m and record profits of more than £66m.

However, the Russian invasion of Ukraine early in 2022 was one of a number of global events that has sent both figures tumbling in 2022.

In the last few days S Norton has filed its full results for the 12 months to December 31, 2022 on Companies House. They show revenues of £417m, a fall of 15%, and a 97% drop in pre-tax profits to just under £2m.

Founded in 1962 the company recycles both ferrous and non-ferrous scrap metal from sources such as car manufacturers, demolition companies, metal merchants, civic amenity sites and from the trade and general public.

S Norton exports to customers all over the world and recycles 95% of all materials it processes, with a target of sending zero waste to landfill. It also runs recycling operations in Manchester, London and Southampton. 

Ultimate owners of the business are members of the Harry family. It is led by managing director Tony Hayer who took the helm in May 2023.

In the annual report the directors say: “Having posted record turnover and profit numbers in 2021, it was always likely that the benign market conditions that prevailed throughout that year would not continue for all of 2022, and so it proved.

“Although Ferrous scrap prices began the year strongly and increased further to more than $600 (US) per tonne by the end of the first quarter, global events and macroeconomics were soon to weigh heavily on markets.

“Despite the group having no dealings with either country, the indirect effects of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine were significant with rising energy costs, and the general instability it created having a negative impact on trading conditions.

“The Chinese government’s policies on COVID-19 continued to hinder its economy, and the ongoing struggles of the Turkish Lira also contributed to falling demand for metal products around the world.

“Global economic and political instability, as well as high inflation, has persisted into 2023 and with many of the same risks still present the outlook for the current year remains muted.”

A decision on safety also affected financial performance during 2022. Lithium ion batteries present in scrap metal waste pose a major fire risk in the industry. S Norton has decided to inspect waste more carefully. This took extra time and led to lower volumes


David Hobson
David Hobson, engineering lead of the shredder project at S Norton Group


However, despite the fall in revenues and profits, the directors remain upbeat about its long-term prospects and said they remain committed to continuing to invest in the business.

In July 2023 LBN revealed the company was investing £20m into a new shredder at its Manchester site. This will increase capacity by more than 50%. This new kit also includes a bespoke and fully automated fire detection and suppression system.

Despite cost pressures the company raised its workers’ pay twice during the year and the number of employees actually went up from 238 to 251. 

Directors received a total remuneration, including salaries and pension benefits, of £1.36m. The highest paid director received £282,000. No dividend was paid to shareholders. In 2021 a dividend of £15m was paid.

In a statement on Monday S Norton added: “We are positioning the company for the future, building on its position as a leader in metals recycling innovation by investing in new structures, systems and machinery to drive future growth and boost productivity across all sites.”

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