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ABI Leisure warns of sterling impact

Shares in ABI Leisure fell heavily yesterday after the Yorkshire- based caravan maker added its name to the growing list of companies warning about the effects of the strong pound.

George Shiels, chairman, said profits in the current year would be less than market expectations but not lower than around pounds 4.5m, which compares with the pounds 5.04m made in 1996. The dividend is likely to be maintained at last year's level.

Analysts had been expecting a continuation of the upward profits trend to pounds 5.4m this year and pounds 5.8m in 1998. Reaction to the warning saw the shares dive 18p to 60p.

UK business has been maintained, and sales of static caravans in particular have benefited from buyers spending windfall bonuses. But 45 per cent of annual sales go to western Europe, especially France, Germany and the Netherlands, compared with just 20 per cent five years ago.

Sales were still improving and the company was reluctant to sacrifice its market share, said David Carrick, chief executive. Prices in foreign currencies have been maintained and receipts in sterling had fallen sharply.

The company has been concerned about the strong pound for some time, but until May the impact was partially offset by forward trading in the foreign exchange markets and sourcing more raw materials and components overseas.