Bottom Line: Hunting prospects

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HUNTING, the aviation, defence and oil services group, held its 1993 dividend at 10p but the market showed little gratitude yesterday, knocking 14p off the share price to 215p.

The shares yield 5.8 per cent - a 50 per cent premium to the market average - which suggests suspicions that the payout could be cut.

It is certainly hard to think of three less fashionable sectors than those in which Hunting operates, and this is enough to explain the market's nerves.

Hunting's pre-tax profits for the year to 30 December rose to pounds 31.7m against pounds 29.2m. The figures were hit by pounds 5.8m of reorganisation costs - mostly incurred in making 200 redundant - but were offset by a pounds 5.8m profit on selling Hammerite paint to Williams Holdings.

While underlying profits were flat, the contributions from Hunting's three operating divisions were anything but.

Operating profits from defence rose 56 per cent, Hunting's oil- related business managed a 12 per cent advance, but the profit contribution from aviation slumped by 58 per cent.

Given such volatility, it is easy to see why the market is edgy. Hunting's less than promising prospects are in the rating - a high yield and a lowly price/earnings ratio of 14.5.