The Week In Review: Photo-Me gets back in the picture

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If ever a company was keen to turn its back on the past, then it's Photo-Me. The photo-booth company has a chequered history, with profits warnings, missed product launches and an abandoned dividend. Its chief executive, Serge Crasnianski, is infamous for offloading £28m of shares at £4 each at the height of the internet boom, when investors thought the company's booths offered the potential for internet-on-the-hop and would prove a licence to print money.

But the group has turned the corner and is starting to reap the benefits of the digital camera revolution that has swept the nation.

The novelty of storing zillions of pictures on our memory cards has worn off. We have wised up, too, to the fact that printing photographs at home is at best costly and at worst produces lousy images. So now we are all ready to embrace all of Photo-Me's new self-service printing kiosks.

Photo-Me also controls 17 per cent of the global digital photo-processing equipment market and hopes to improve this to 25 per cent within five years. With so much to play for, it's worth sticking a few more shares in your album.


Shareholders in Stanley Leisure, the gaming group, have scooped a 250p-per-share jackpot, thanks to the sale of the company's betting shops to William Hill. Now, Stanley will concentrate on its casinos - an understandable decision given that the biggest changes in the casino industry in 40 years are about to happen. The shares already seem fully valued, given that there is no certainty it will win any new casino licences.


You might have thought that FishWorks would have proved a tough flotation, given that the last fish restaurant chain to appear on the stock market, Fish!, collapsed into administration in 2002. The enthusiasm of the management will count for much in this growth phase and, with none of the debt that encumbered Fish!, the business ought to manage a handful of new sites each year. Worth a nibble.


Tribal Group, led by the ever-bullish Henry Pitman, has assembled a collection of consultancies operating in local government. Its activities span a wide range, from public relations and recruitment to technology and architectural advice. This diversity will be a strength in due course, but Pitman is far from persuading the City it all hangs together internally. Wait.


GW Pharma is having a hard time getting its cannabis-based painkiller approved in the UK, where the regulator has been more sceptical of its claims to relieve spacticity in multiple sclerosis sufferers. Go back and do more work, GW was told. But that work is costly. Unless Canadian sales turn out to be spectacular (unlikely in a country that allows MS sufferers to smoke cannabis), it may run out of money. Avoid.


Victory sells cosmetics and jewellery through a national network of agents who organise testing parties. A dip in sales before Christmas meant annual figures were a long way short of initial hopes. Given the embarrassment that this company is to Richard Branson's Virgin, which controls it, there is always the chance it will be taken private. The shares look cheap enough to hold.


Alliance UniChem distributes medicines to pharmacies throughout Europe, and has more recently been growing its own chains of chemist's shops. In the UK, the Government is keen to encourage chemists to take on more simple health work to ease congestion in the doctors' surgeries. We have tipped this stock three times in the past three years, but we're not tempted to take our substantial profits yet.


Halma's line to the City has been that ever-tightening regulatory requirements on health and safety guarantee a growing market for its products. These range from sensors for keeping lift doors from chopping people in half, to high-power electrical resistors. The group boasts of high margins but growth is lacklustre. The company has no debt and plenty of options, and a decent dividend justifies holding on.


Already listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange with a market value of C$461m (£205m), Canaccord, a broker and investment bank, became one of AIM's largest companies this week. The company reported a stellar set of annual results in May. It has plenty of cash, underpinning management's ambition to add a US leg to the group's Canadian and UK businesses. Canaccord trades at a discount to its UK rivals Numis and Evolution. Buy.


Media Square is a small(ish) but ambitious company operating in the marketing field. It provides "point of sale" promotional materials for shops and has just £24m of the £1.2bn market, which is growing by 10 per cent a year. So it has plenty to go for. In its communications business, it hopes to grow by taking market share. Buy.


Crest Nicholson aims its homes at the low to middle income bracket, with sites in economically vibrant areas such as the Midlands and further south. It says that housing market conditions are "challenging" but activity has picked up in the past three months. The shares are helped by bid interest from the group's rival Heron Corporation. Hold.

The above are recommendations from the daily Investment Column

Standard wins the race to buy into Vietnamese banking

The fastest-growing economies of Asia have become a battleground where the major Western banks jostle for position. And as its main markets in Hong Kong and Singapore are still languishing, Standard Chartered, the Asia-focused bank, is doing the right thing by trying to make its mark elsewhere in the region.

The group has stepped up the pace of acquisitions and recently became the first foreign lender to buy into a Vietnamese bank. In India, it is the largest international bank, with 75 branches. In China, where it has bought a 20 per cent stake in Bohai Bank, it is looking for further acquisitions.

With two-thirds of profits in Asia, it is sheltered from the increase in consumer bad debts, which several major UK banks have warned about in recent weeks.

It is also an attractive takeover target.

The shares offer good long-term value. Hold.

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