BZW criticised over advice to Premier

BZW came under fire yesterday for apparently changing its advice to Premier Farnell on Wednesday morning, abruptly reversing a previous recommendation to the company that it did not need to warn the market of an expected shortfall in profits.

The meltdown in the electronic component distributor's share price continued yesterday as finance director Andrew Fisher went on a hasty tour of City brokers to explain Wednesday's warning, which was finally made only two minutes before the market closed.

Shares in Premier Farnell plunged another 112.5p to 520p yesterday as the market took stock of the company's warning that weak trading conditions in both the US and UK, coupled with the strength of the pound, would reduce profits in the year that ends today to 8 per cent less than most analysts expected.

The role of BZW in the share price collapse is the latest embarrassment for the broker, which was criticised before Christmas for its role in CalEnergy's takeover of Northern Electric and for the way in which it handled a downgraded profits forecast for RJB Mining, another client.

Concerns about trading at Premier Farnell trickled into the market throughout the day on Wednesday after the company failed to show up at scheduled meetings with analysts to discuss trading in the year that was drawing to a close.

Brokers were seething yesterday about what what was described as a bungled statement. One analyst said: "They have been extremely naive and had terrible advice."

The broker said the company appeared to have no understanding of the extent of the disappointment felt in the City, only a year after the company had had to work hard to persuade shareholders of the merits of its ambitious acquisition of the much larger US Premier operation.

Analysts said yesterday's meetings with Mr Fisher, who was deputising for chief executive Howard Poulson, on business in California, were "very disappointing". The company, they said, had not really explained the gap between expectations at the time of the Premier deal and the latest forecast from house broker BZW of about pounds 170m for the year to January 1998.

The company blamed trading at a subsidiary which had been sold in December and currency effects but analysts said a question mark still remained.

Comment, page 21

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