Alpha float will ease Forte debt burden

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MORE than pounds 180m could be erased from Forte's pounds 1.2bn of debts by the flotation of its Alpha Airports subsidiary. Rocco Forte, chairman of Forte, said the flotation took the group nearer to its goal of concentrating on its core hotel and restaurant operations.

Alpha serves more than 45 million in-flight meals a year for planes leaving 20 British airports and five overseas. It also has 31 duty-free and 52 tax-paid shops at 15 airports.

Its pathfinder prospectus, containing minimal financial detail, was issued yesterday and is the precursor for dealings in the company's shares on 10 February.

The pathfinder does disclose that Alpha increased profits in each of the past three years and the directors predict a further improvement for the latest 12-month period, which ends this month.

In 1990-91 it made operating profits of pounds 12.1m, which edged up to pounds 12.3m a year later and rose to pounds 17.3m in 1992-93. The company forecasts pounds 20.6m for 1993-94.

Of the current year's profits, pounds 14.7m is expected to come from pounds 210m of turnover in flight services and the remaining pounds 5.9m from pounds 213m of retail sales.

City estimates of the value of the flotation range from pounds 200m to pounds 230m. Alpha will repay pounds 30m of debts outstanding to Forte, which will retain a 25 per cent stake.

The full prospectus will be published on 25 January. The public offer for shares closes on 3 February.