But chief executive Jim Hopley has warned that 2009 is unlikely to produce the same level of success, although he has pledged to maintain the annual four per cent dividend payout to which members have become accustomed.
The board has also decided to close the staff defined benefit scheme because of the past service deficit, which last year increased by £1.4 million to £7.6 million, despite a cash injection of over £641,000. Staff are being given the option to join a new defined contribution pension scheme instead.
‘We do expect this to be a tougher year, with a squeeze on the market, and we will probably not be reporting the same level of growth at this time next year,’ said Mr Hopley. ‘But I do not see the four per cent dividend being eroded.’