PHS Disconnects Ammanford Contact Centre
See also the ‘Carmarthenshire Herald’, July 8th p.4
The July 15th closure of PHS Group’s contact centre in New Road, Ammanford, brings to an end 12 years of employment in the grant-aided building.
Built with space for 300 people, in the run-down to closure only 12 PHS staff, and 10 working for PHS spin-off Waterlogic, were employed at the site.
Caerphilly-based PHS Group, which provides workplace services such as washroom equipment, waste bins, mats, plants, water coolers, workwear, crates and caretaking supplies, took over the centre in April 2004.
The attractive 14,000 sq ft building, in a landscaped setting, was constructed for tenants PHS by Carmarthenshire County Council and the since-axed Welsh Development Agency, thanks to grant aid from the Welsh Government in the form of Regional Selective Assistance. The county council retains ownership of the building.
Cllr Meryl Gravell, leader of the county council at the time, was reported as saying “Carmarthenshire County Council is delighted that PHS has chosen Ammanford to expand its customer contact centre operations. PHS will create long-term, sustainable employment for Ammanford.”
PHS Group, owned between 2005 and 2015 by private equity group Charterhouse Capital Partners, laboured under an excessive load of debt and breached banking covenants. In October 2014 Charterhouse Capital Partners sold PHS to a new entity called PHS Bidco Ltd, which in turn is owned by PHS Group Investments Ltd. The most recent published accounts for PHS Group, covering the year to March 31st 2015, report “substantially” reduced debt totalling £678.5 million, of which £373.5 million is due for repayment in April 2020 and £305 million in October 2022.
The directors of PHS Group Investments Ltd opted to depart from the Companies Act 2006 and not to amortise (write down) ‘goodwill’ – intangibles such as brand reputation — because they believe the goodwill value has an infinite life. The accounts for 2014-15 say “If the goodwill were amortised over a 20-year period, the loss before tax for the period ended 31 March 2015 would be increased by £14,132,000 with a corresponding reduction in reserves and intangible assets. The cumulative amount that would have to be written off against reserves is £14,132,000.”
The PHS businesses reported turnover of £385.2m in 2014-15, 2% less than the previous year. In line with the parent company directors’ decision to reduce, on paper, the loss for the year, PHS Group revealed a pre-tax loss of £41.1m, far smaller than the £683m loss in 2013-14, and further reduced to £37.4m thanks to a £3.7m tax credit.
Despite the relative improvement in performance, PHS still faces a steep uphill climb to achieve sustained long-term profitability. The Ammanford closure may be part of the effort, but disappointing news for the employees.
Georgina Jones, communications manager for PHS Group, did not reveal the amount of grant aid received, but said: “We received regional assistance at the time and we have employed up to 150 people at the site for the last 12 years so this money was well spent. We are also keeping many jobs in south Wales for the future.”
The Waterlogic staff are moving to premises at Cross Hands, said Georgina. She added: “We offered redeployment to Caerphilly for all PHS employees in Ammanford, however not all have chosen to relocate. This means that we will be recruiting for these posts at our Caerphilly head office. We are helping those who have chosen not to relocate to find alternative employment.”