No Pain, No Gain: 'Perhaps I shouldn't have sold but I did lock in good profits'

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I am away next week on an extended summer holiday, a good time to review the no pain, no gain portfolio. At a similar time last year, with the stock market seemingly heading for freefall, I was panicked into selling two of the best-performing constituents, Mears and Inter Link Foods. They were highly rated and could, I reasoned, suffer severely in any meltdown during my absence. So I decided to take profits.

Well, they have survived better than many others and, as a reader, Peter Bradbury, suggested, I regret selling them. I am pleased he still has the shares and did not, on that occasion, follow the portfolio. Still, in mitigation, I did lock in splendid profits when I unloaded.

This year, with shares in general looking in far better shape, I am content to leave the portfolio unmolested. It does contain a couple of basket cases, but I have missed opportunities to sell and I may as well stick with them, nursing my losses but living in hope they will recover. I should point out this is a crucial month for one of them, Profile Media, and little seems to be happening at the other, Springwood, to inspire much confidence.

City of London, the hi-tech, investment and public relations group, is another constituent where we are seriously out of pocket. It took a savage hit when it mothballed two of its three internet involvements. Whether it will eventually realise anything from them is in the lap of the gods. The third internet venture, Archive-it, could be merged with another group or sold. It seems City of London's chairman, John Greenhalgh, has had several approaches and is contemplating his options. He is unlikely to recoup the internet outlay. Even so, a sale this year could have a considerable impact on the figures and may even bring City of London back to the dividend list. Ten of my 15 shares pay dividends.

Mr Greenhalgh, a former newspaper reporter, last month cut his controlling shareholding to 24 per cent, selling 29.5 per cent of the company's capital at 65p a share. It was his first sale since floating City of London in 1988. Although he got a better price than the 50p now ruling, the old Fleet Street hack must wish he had taken advantage of the internet euphoria which sent the shares soaring above 900p. I would be happier had I sold the portfolio holding in those giddy days. My two most recent additions, Glisten, a confectionery maker, and Wyatt, an on-line risk consultancy, have not set the portfolio alight. Glisten made modest but commendable progress, and Wyatt shaded a copper or so.

Scottish & Newcastle, another loser, has failed to roll out much confidence. Its results were indifferent and its decision to hack a third of its yearly dividend is unlikely to endear it to investors. There was much City talk, particularly among drinks analysts and fund managers, that Scottish should sell its pubs, which it is trying to do. Such a move would improve its share rating. There has as yet been little evidence that any re-rating is underway. I believe Scottish should have stuck with its pubs. The sale will hit profits and could eventually deprive the group of a necessary shop window for its products.

The fall from grace of the Courage-to-Fosters giant is in stark contrast to the rest of the beerage which seems to be enjoying a heady run. Witness the recent figures from Greene King, the nation's number two quoted brewer. Its shares, like those of many other brewers, are riding high. Scottish shares are a long way from the near-700p level a few years ago.

Thanks largely to Burtonwood Brewery, Galliford Try, Merrydown and Stagecoach the portfolio is back into relatively comfortable profitability. Not too bad a performance, considering the stock market has been in ragged retreat for most of its existence.

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