No Pain, No Gain: If you held on to Mears, congratulations are due...

I am indebted to Bob Holt, a no-nonsense entrepreneur. His Mears support services group was one of the No Pain, No Gain portfolio's early constituents. The shares were sold at a handsome profit. But I was too hasty; the price has soared since I rashly cashed in.

It is now around 300p. I paid 23p, selling at 71.5p. The stock market is normally philosophical about such misadventures. It is never wrong to take a profit is an often-heard comment. Nevertheless my decision not to stick with Mears must be classified as an almighty clanger - one that cost the portfolio dear.

Since sacrificing Mears, which has just rolled out an encouraging trading statement, I alighted upon another Holt venture - Wyatt, a little online risk consultancy. Its shares have failed to cover themselves in glory and are in the red. Still, fearing an embarrassing repeat performance, I am hanging on - at least for now.

Holt, however, has not confined his endeavours to only two stock-market companies. He has other interests. One is Supporta, a group carving out an intriguing niche supplying a range of white-collar services to local authorities and other public bodies. In some ways it is very similar to Mears. It, too, services local authorities, although its core operation is blue-collar housing maintenance.

Even so, there are significant differences. Whereas Holt, once the chief executive of Tottenham Hotspur FC, is still at the forefront of Mears, he has taken a back seat at Supporta where John Jasper, a former Capita man, is in charge. He replaced Holt, now in a non-executive role, as chairman in August, 2004. And Supporta, unlike Mears, has emerged as a nimble footed acquirer. It has already put through a string of deals and more takeovers are expected.

It is a company in a hurry. Last month it paid £4.9m (with £2m more depending on profits) for a business called Independent Living Organisation. It offers home and live-in care for 22 local authorities and has an order book of £16m. Pre-tax profits hit £750,000 last year.

ILO will be lumped in with Supporta's care division, lifting the hours of home care it provides to above 30,000 a week. Still highly fragmented, the market is worth some £2bn a year and swelling at a rate of 6 per cent. The private sector share is 62 per cent and growing at 11 per cent.

The group has two other promising divisions. One provides payroll and support services, mainly to the health service; the other offers property design, planning and project management to the public sector.

Supporta, then called Staffing Ventures, arrived on the Alternative Investment Market (AIM) five years ago. It described itself as a seed-corn vehicle for new recruitment businesses. But this policy was abandoned under Holt's leadership and the drive into the public sector launched. It is an area well suited for the experienced Jasper.

The reshaping was quickly accomplished. Four recruitment operations were sold and two closed. The operating structure was streamlined from 35 companies to the three divisions.

As it has grown, Supporta has accumulated strong City support. Institutional investors hold around 85 per cent of its shares and their power will have increased following their take-up in the share placings which accompanied the ILO acquisition. The shares have had a healthy run in the past 18 months, although they are below the peak hit in the group's early days on AIM. The price is now 88p, giving a £54.7m capitalisation, against 37p in the summer of 2004.

Like so many up-and-coming concerns - Jasper describes it as aspiring "to be the supplier of choice in its chosen markets"- Supporta has yet to make real money. Last year it lost £870,000 at pre-tax level. In the first half of its current year the loss was £340,000. Both figures were heavily influenced by special charges, including the dreaded goodwill amortisation. Although exceptionals will again leave their mark, pre-tax profits could be achieved this year.

Supporta is some way from rewarding shareholders with dividends. But it is proceeding in the right direction, is adept at bedding down acquisitions and has established itself in its chosen fields.

It is the sort of company I would normally welcome into the portfolio. But with one Holt share still in residence and another ranking as a former constituent, I feel I should for once ignore the entrepreneur's influence and look elsewhere for recruits. Still Supporta is an interesting situation - one that will enrich supporters.

cash@independent.co.uk

Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
people'Omen' star was best known for stage work with Samuel Beckett
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright has won The Apprentice 2014
tvThe Apprentice 2014 final
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Darrell Banks’s ‘Open The Door To Your Heart’
music
News
Detective Tam Bui works for the Toronto Police force
news
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor winner Ben Haenow has scored his first Christmas number one
music
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Carlton Senior Appointments: Private Banking Manager - Intl Bank - Los Angeles

    $200 - $350 per annum: Carlton Senior Appointments: Managing Producer – Office...

    Carlton Senior Appointments: San Fran - Investment Advisor – Ind Advisory Firm

    $125 - $225 per annum: Carlton Senior Appointments: San Fran - Investment Advi...

    Sheridan Maine: Commercial Finance Manager

    Up to £70,000 per annum + benefits: Sheridan Maine: Are you a qualified accoun...

    Sheridan Maine: Regulatory Reporting Accountant

    Up to £65,000 per annum + benefits: Sheridan Maine: Are you a qualified accoun...

    Day In a Page

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'