Blacks Leisure slices dividend

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The Independent Online
BLACKS LEISURE has cut its interim dividend from 1.1p to 0.75p after its sportswear distribution business and camping shops fell victim to the downturn in the leisure industry and fierce price competition.

Turnover, at pounds 35m, was up by pounds 1.2m but profits before tax fell by 74 per cent to pounds 585,000 in the half- year to 29 August. The figures include pounds 185,000 in exceptional income from a property disposal.

'We have not seen any sign that the recession is easing,' Simon Bentley, chairman, said. 'It would take a brave man to suggest that recovery was going to come soon.'

Cost cuts across the group have resulted in 50 redundancies, leaving 700 employees. The retail division slumped to a loss of pounds 89,000 after making profits of pounds 1.1m last time. The camping shops proved resilient but turnover fell and margins came under pressure in the First Sport outlets.

On the distribution side profits fell pounds 600,000 to pounds 1.7m on the downturn in consumer spending.

Distribution of LA Gear goods returned to profit after making a loss in the second half of last year and Fila goods were 'highly successful'.

Quaser, which makes football boots, was bought in January and is trading at break-even point.

But Blacks has closed S Eker, the textile division that it hoped to sell as a going concern. An extraordinary charge of pounds 1.1m will cover continuing overheads, stock losses or debtor write-downs.

Earnings per share dropped from 6.4p to 1.68p. Yesterday the shares closed down 7p at 32p.