No Pain No Gain: Soccer centre chain makes an impressive score

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The Independent Online

And the shares are not doing badly. GSC where, I have to admit, I was rather slow off the mark, is riding at 144.5p against the 125.5p I paid; Prezzo stands at 54p compared with a 17.25p buying level.

My grandson, a member of a team playing regularly at a GSC venue, first attracted me to the company. A little diligent research convinced me that although the shares were already rather highly rated, I should nevertheless clamber on board. The company's first interim figures since December's flotation suggest that sometimes it is better to be late than never.

The half-time profits emerged at £1.3m - a staggering 473 per cent advance - from sales of £5.5m. A full year's profit nudging £3m seems achievable. GSC is operating from 14 five-a-side football centres which embrace well-appointed clubhouses that represent 30 per cent of turnover.

Three centres are being built and the group expects to grow its chain to 26 by the end of 2007. Thanks to the flotation cash and a revolving credit, GSC has the ability to complete its planned roll-out without resorting to shareholders for more cash.

Although it is not indulging in an interim payment, GSC is - wisely, I feel - planning to join the dividend list when it reveals year's figures. Fledgling companies, of course, often need to preserve cash to meet their expansion bills. And the first to suffer is the poor old shareholder who has to wait years before any payment is made. But GSC reckons its backers deserve a quicker return.

Similar thoughts occurred at Prezzo, another relative upstart. It entered the dividend stakes last year and although it is not making an interim payment, a dividend at the year-end is expected.

The restaurant chain's half-time figures revealed profits of £2.3m from sales of £15.9m. It is now trading from 60 outlets and I would expect stock market hopes of at least £6.6m (against £4.1m) to be met. With £4m in the bank it, too, should have little problem financing expansion.

Prezzo is backed and run by the Kaye family which has already made several fortunes from catering. The shares have been as high as 73p but a share split probably encouraged some shareholders, as I suggested, to top slice. Their action, together with the worries about high street sales, has tempered enthusiasm to some extent. Still, the shares have turned on an impressive performance for the portfolio., a portfolio constituent, is another up-and-coming business producing enough cash to make dividend payments. And, says analyst Jon Lienard, at stockbroker Brewin Dolphin, it is set to steadily increase its payments.

Lienard expects profits this year to emerge at £2.5m, with the year's dividend rising from 0.5p to 1.5p. a share. Next year he looks for profits of £3.4m and a 2.5p distribution. He acknowledges that weakness on the retail front could have an impact on trading, but expects any softness to be offset by the group's increasing franchise network.

Portfolio members are generally chosen for their long-term potential. I am therefore prepared to ignore modest hiccups. But it is always wise to recognise changing circumstances and quickly take any necessary action.

I was far too slow to appreciate the difficulties enveloping Profile Media where most of the portfolio's investment has disappeared. So I am always on the lookout for recruits. I am considering Gourmet Holdings, a gastropub business where the ubiquitous Kayes have a significant stake; and an infant called Eruma - it makes security blinds.

Figures should be due from Gourmet soon; I await them with interest. As for Eruma, profits remain a distant possibility. It is very much a long shot. The shares arrived in the summer at 5p; they are now 7.75p, capitalising the company at £5.4m.

Its security blinds, originally aimed at thwarting burglaries, could have a role in the fight against terrorism. They are effective against flying glass. The blinds, which are not unattractive, are vertical. Unlike traditional blinds they contain steel and in a split second can become, in effect, a steel barrier.

In this violent age there could be a huge demand for such protection. If a strong flow of orders starts arriving at Eruma's Rotherham plant, the shares could romp ahead. But these are still early days.

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