Acquisitions lift Singer's profits

Acquisitions helped power a 55 per cent jump in pre-tax profits at Singer & Friedlander, and the merchant bank yesterday held out the prospect of further purchases. The inclusion for the first time of the Swedish stockbroker, Carnegie, contributed over pounds 14m of pre-tax profits to S&F's 1995 total of pounds 38m. Anthony Solomons, chairman, said the company would continue to search for further opportunities.

But S&F pointed up the continuing difficulties of the mobile phone market, saying that sales since the beginning of the year at People's Phone, in which it has a 30 per cent stake, have been disappointing. The phone company had earlier been forced to postpone a planned flotation on the stock market because of the weak numbers.

Although Peoples Phone contributed nearly pounds 4m in consolidated pre-tax profits to S&F last year, the bank warned that in 1996 there could well be a loss because of accounting changes and high promotional expenditure over the Christmas period. Instead of writing off the costs of new phone subscribers over a period of three years, S&F is to switch to writing off the costs as they are incurred.

S&F said this met changes in accounting standards and would be more in line with the practice of quoted companies which would be required at flotation. "The consequences of this change are that profits for 1995/96 are likely to be negligible or eliminated completely, although the medium- term effect is expected to be neutral, and thus not affect the value of the business," Mr Solomon said.

Earnings per share including exceptional items rose 29 per cent to 12.33p, and the final divided was raised by 14 per cent to 4p. The group also benefited from the expansion of funds under management to nearly pounds 4bn, helped in particular by the acquisition of Knight Williams' client funds of pounds 400m.

An earlier S&F purchase, the stockbroker Collins Stewart, enjoyed another outstandingly successful year, according to Mr Solomon.

Singer & Friedlander's shares yesterday closed unchanged at 105p.

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