Business support services company DCC has reported an increase in operating profits but a drop in revenues for the six months to the end of September in what it called a "robust" performance.
DCC said its half year operating profits rose by 8.3% to £176.1m compared to £162.6m the same time last year, while its revenues dropped by 18.9% to £5.931 billion from £7.312 billion.
The company said that despite the uncertainty created by the Covid-19 pandemic, it has decided to pay an interim dividend of 51.95 pence per share.
This represents a 5% increase on the previous year's interim dividend of 49.48 pence per share.
DCC operates in a range of sectors including technology and healthcare, but its gas and fuel forecourt operations are the biggest part of its business.
DCC said its balance sheet remains very strong and liquid, with net debt (excluding lease creditors) of £137m at the end of September, gross cash of about £1.5 billion and undrawn, committed bank facilities of £400m.
"This excellent financial position will facilitate the continued growth and development of the group," it added.
But it cautioned that with Covid-19 related restrictions now increasing again generally, the outlook for all economies in which DCC operates remains very uncertain.
"However, DCC's diverse and resilient business model, the essential nature of the group's products and services and its extremely strong balance sheet ensure that the group is well placed to navigate this ongoing uncertainty and continue its growth and development into the future," it stated.
DCC's chief executive Donal Murphy said that despite the unprecedented disruption experienced by all economies during the six month period, every DCC business unit operated effectively, ensuring its customers continued to receive DCC's range of essential products and services.
"The uncertainty created by the pandemic continues at elevated levels and in this difficult environment DCC's priority remains keeping our employees safe and well while we continue to supply the essential products and services our customers require," Donal Murphy said.
"Whilst the first half of the financial year is seasonally less significant, the strong performance demonstrates the resilience and agility of our business model," he said.
"It also highlights the essential nature of the group's products and services and the benefit of the diversity of the group's operations, in terms of sectoral focus, customer and supplier breadth and geographic mix," he added.
DCC LPG sold 726.3k tonnes in the first half of the year, a 9% decline on the previous year.
The company said the performance reflected the impact of Covid-19, particularly in the first quarter, where strong cylinder and domestic demand was more than offset by lower commercial and industrial volumes, given the typical seasonal weighting of the first half. Volumes were also impacted by the relatively warmer weather, it added.
DCC Retail & Oil said it sold 4.9 billion litres of product in the first half, a 17.8% decrease on last year.
It said the reduction reflected the significant impact of Covid-19 restrictions on commercial, industrial and transport volumes, while the business saw strong demand from the domestic and agricultural sectors, particularly in the first quarter. As lockdown restrictions eased, transport volumes gradually recovered in each market, it added.