Marcela Trust part 3 - Camelia Botnar

[See Part 2 for the story so far. In this piece we delve into a charitable foundation and associated company, spend some quality time in the accounts and marvel at wage costs and profits. See Part 4 for the Camelia Botnar Ltd. 2011 accounts.]

Having established the provenance of the Marcela Trust money, I thought I'd dig into the companies and charities associated with it and its trustees. Top of the list were the Camelia Botnar Foundation charity and associated company Camelia Botnar Ltd.

Camelia Botnar Foundation - the charity

The Camelia Botnar Foundation is registered charity no. 277275. Their accounts for 2010 were received Sept 2011, so 2011's accounts should be along soon; I look forward to it. From the Charities Commission executive summary:

  • Bulk of £2.8mm income is from investment (£2mm) and trading to raise funds (£760K) on £60mm of assets.
  • Bulk of spending is "charitable activities" (£2.32mm) and trading to raise fund (£640K)
  • 79 employees.
Here's a link to the Camelia Botnar Foundation 2010 accounts (980K PDF), let's see what's in there.

Trustees of the Camelia Botnar Foundation (hereafter referred to as "CBF" for brevity) are listed as B A (Brian Arthur) Groves, D P Rose nee Lawson (Dawn Pamela Rose), Dr M Lenz (Martin Lenz) and Miss N S L Malby (Natasha Sara Lara Malby). See my previous Marcela Trust post for details on these people. Of them, all but Natasha Malby are trustees of the Marcela Trust (and no other charities).

Main points from the primary accounting information:

  • Camelia Botnar Ltd. is listed as a "subsidiary undertaking" - take note, this will be referenced later - and is hereafter referred to as "CBL" for brevity.
  • The associated estate sucks up a fair amount of funds, which seems reasonable. OMC Investments Ltd. (q.v.) donated £100K for driveway resurfacing.
  • A new (to me) entity is referenced - the OMC Endowment Fund which produced £5000 this year and £3220 last year, so my guess is that with a yield of a few percent the fund is about £100K in size.
  • CBL turnover went up a few percent to £760K this year with gross profit 122K; this is over 16%, which isn't bad, but see the next point;
  • CBL gifted 90K to CBF; CBF gives the workforce to CBL free of charge so it's not surprising they turn a good profit. I wonder where the rest of the money goes - materials? CBF had loaned 75K to CBL, which is repaying 20K this year.
  • Their fund managers (Sarasin and partners) managed a 10% return on investments, compared to a 14.5% return from the FTSE All Share Index. I hope they didn't pay Sarasin much for a performance like that - oh look, £96.5K expense for Investment Management costs on £42mm of investments. That looks like a 2% annual fee. Nice work if you can get it. I'd stick them on a FTSE tracker and charge no more than 1%. The actual investment is 55% in UK equities, 40% in bonds and 5% overseas investments.

In the costs of charitable activities, establishment costs were £497K and staff costs were £1.5mm. 79 employees implies an average staff cost of 18K which seems about right; headline wages are 80% of this. 45 employees actually make things; the rest do "charitable activities" and 1 does "governance". The governance employee was paid £80-90K plus about £7K of pension contributions. Trustees were not paid. CBF holds £807K in the aforementioned OMC Investments Ltd.

So overall nothing inherently odd there. The most interesting point is that CBL receives 45 workers effectively free of charge (worth wages of about 700K, or nearly 100% of turnover), and still only manage to turn 20% gross profit. Is this because materials are the greatest cost? If so, it's a lousy business to run. CBF is paying 700K wages to CBL and only receiving 120K of profit (in various forms). So let's turn our attention to CBL.

Camelia Botnar Ltd - the company

Camelia Botnar Ltd is registered company no. 1646383. Directors are the aforementioned Dawn Pamela Rose, Natasha Malby and a new name Emma Louise Mitchell. With my curiosity piqued I ordered the 2010 accounts for this company from Companies House. They were brief, but confirmed the above numbers. However they were significant for the indications they gave.

Their debt is interesting. In 2009 they owed £100K to CBF; in 2010 this went to £165K. This is odd; their cash in bank and at hand has gone from £128K in 2009 to £175K in 2010. In other words they are keeping virtually all the loan as a cash float; net current assets are static around £175K.

What does their £759K turnover imply, if it all came from 45 craftsmen? About £15K of sales per craftsman. Their cost of sales was £636K - what was that cost made up of? Not craftsman wages, that's for sure. I presume it was almost all materials for sales - but 2009 turnover was lower and sales costs were higher, yet the steadily increasing cost of raw materials would have made us think that cost per sale would have risen in 2010. This has a whiff of peculiarity.

Tangible assets (plant and machinery) increased by 14K (36K additions minus 22K depreciation), stocks by 30K with a net book value of 79K.

I am extremely curious to know how their costs break down. What's their margin on their goods? Why is their profit margin so low given all the free labour and interest-free debt? What are they paying their directors, and in what form? Why aren't their sales being crimped by the recession?

Camelia Botnar Limited looks like a very inefficient business. It should be making a lot more money than it actually does, given the free labour that the Camelia Botnar Foundation supplies. I look forward to their 2011 accounts with which, dear reader, I shall regale you when they arrive.


  1. I've eventually arrived at your blog via being curious about CASH, checking their Charity Commission page and downloading accounts, thinking WTF about the Marcela Trust, checking them out ditto... (I have a background linked to charity regulation)

    ...and then finding I had been following exactly in your footsteps. Only 2 months late..

    Gripping. Thank you. Where were you before in my life?

  2. Apologies! Always good to have a fellow enthusiast on board though. You're probably a lot more knowledgeable about the area, I'm just a randomly interested amateur.


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