Blenheim profits tumble

BY WILLIAM GLEESON

Shares in Blenheim Group, the exhibitions organiser, rose 20p to 197p yesterday on hopes of a turnaround in the company's recent bad fortunes and despite a set of poor figures.

The company, which has dented City confidence with four profit warnings in little more than a year, turned in pre-tax profits of £30.3m for the year to December, down 33 per cent from the previous year's £45.2m. Turnover was £187m, down from £198.7m previously.

Blenheim blamed economic conditions in France, its main market, which has lagged Britain in pulling out of recession.

Blenheim is Europe's largest organiser and owner of exhibitions and used to be seen in the City as a strong growth stock. In January it warned restructuring costs would knock £4m off profit. Currently, 125 jobs are being shed, which will bring the workforce down to 800.

Neville Buch, executive chairman, said: "There was a severe volume fall in France which, in a highly operationally geared business, is difficult to cope with. A franc off the top line is a franc off the bottom line."

The performance of the information technology exhibitions in the US was patchy, adding to Blenheim's troubles. Mr Buch admitted the company was slow in implementing a restructuring programme, but it had now done so and expected to build on this in the future.

Earnings per share in 1994 were 15.7p, down from 29.4p. The dividend for the year is 10.35p, up very slightly from 10.25p.

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