It's fishy, but it's fun

No Pain, No Gain: Our Man's Portfolio

DEEP-SEA LEISURE has not made much of a splash in the City since it floated on theAlternative Investment Market three years ago. Although no slouch when it comes toconsumer public relations, it has adopted a low investment profile, hiding its merits underthe proverbial bushel.

DEEP-SEA LEISURE has not made much of a splash in the City since it floated on theAlternative Investment Market three years ago. Although no slouch when it comes toconsumer public relations, it has adopted a low investment profile, hiding its merits underthe proverbial bushel.

But its trading success indicates a wider following is deserved and its shares, althoughhighly speculative, will add a touch of excitement to the no pain, no gain portfolio. Makeno mistake, DSL remains in the development stage and things could still go horriblywrong. But if developments proceed according to plan and the group's two visitorattractions continue to prosper the shares should be a rewarding flutter.

The company was launched by the managing director Phil Crane, a director of the oldCityvision video chain, seven years ago. Its first venture was Deep-Sea World, awalk-through aquarium at North Queensferry in Scotland. Last year a similar aquarium,the Blue Planet, opened at Cheshire Oaks, near Ellesmere Port in Cheshire. Thewalk-through idea is popular in the US and Australia. Customers wander along a clearplastic tunnel inside an aquarium, plunged into the underwater world of sharks andtropical fish.

Deep-Sea World has been profitable from its launch and the Blue Planet, althoughopening late and missing four key trading months, appears to have contributed to lastyear's figures. DSL produced profits of more than £1m. But exceptional chargesleft the company with a £49,000 loss. The Blue Planet development wasresponsible. Charges included a payment to nearby Chester Zoo for its agreement not tooppose a £3.1m grant from a European development agency for the 18-acreproject. The Euro grant, bank money and the £3m-plus raised when DSL floatedon AIM, financed the £14m Blue Planet concept.

The financial drain has coloured the market's approach to the shares. The companyappears to be trading well and said it was "on line" to produce its best results. DSL shareswere sold to investors at 160p. They did hit 390p but have drifted along untroubled ataround 250p for much of the past year.

The group does not appear to have more expensive go-it-alone projects, and much of itsfuture expansion may be through management contracts and joint ventures which, ofcourse, are nowhere near as capital-intensive. Mr Crane, with nearly 22 per cent of thecapital, is harbouring hopes of developments in Germany, Holland and Spain.

Besides the excitement over Allied Domecq, one other constituent of the no pain, no gainportfolio has attracted attention. Gowrings, the garages to fast-food restaurantscombination, produced record interim profits and its shares climbed to 151.5p against103.5p when they joined the portfolio in April. They are now 147.5p.

Paul Hickman at stockbroker Peel Hunt has put a 200p target on the shares and expectsprofits this year to hit £1.94m, up from £1.61m.

Comments