City File: Celsis pins revival hopes on new boss

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The Independent Online
CELSIS International, the biotechnology group racked by management problems, is poised for a rally. It is close to appointing a new chief executive to replace Tony Martin, who was ousted in a boardroom bust-up last May.

Since then, the shares have come in for a pasting, declining from about 95p to 60plast Friday. But they are at a turning point. The company is expected to announce the new chief executive by the end of August, paving the way for its rehabilitation in the City.

Although there is still uncertainty about Mr Martin's pay-off - he is fighting a court battle for a six-figure sum - more attention is likely to focus on new contract orders in the company's pipeline. Buy.

SHARES in Pillar Property Investments are expected to open at a premium of about 15p to their 150p offer price when dealings begin tomorrow.

Formed by Raymond Mould and Patrick Vaughan - two of the savviest property men in Britain - in a collapsing property market three years ago, it is raising pounds 87m through the issue of 60 million new shares, of which three- quarters were placed with institutions and the remainder through a public offer almost five times oversubscribed.

The new money will be used to repay shareholder loans, redeem pounds 21m of other loans and to build up Pillar's property portfolio.

YET AGAIN it is a case of paradise postponed at Standard Chartered. The bank has a huge presence in the booming Asia- Pacific region but has cultivated an accident-prone image through several financial mishaps in the area.

Many investors might be willing toput up with the odd banana skin in return for potentially rich rewards from Standard's exposure in those high- growth economies.

But after last week's disappointing results, the bank seems incapable of better exploiting its Far East franchise, turning into a low-growth, high-risk vehicle instead.

Although interim pre-tax profits jumped 39 per cent to pounds 294m, that was entirely due to lower provisions. Not surprisingly, the shares dived by about 35p to 247p last week. Give the Eastern promise a miss.

PROTEAN, the laboratory equipment supplier, looks a good bet. Under Geoff Spink, chief executive, it has built up an impressive track record, with an average annual increase in earnings of 32 per cent over the past five years.

The shares have fallen back recently on profit-taking. But the company has picked up orders worth pounds 2m from Ireland and Japan in the past few days - a move that could prompt City analysts to upgrade profit forecasts for the year to next March. At 193p, the shares are trading on below 13 times prospective earnings.

FANS of cyclical stocks should take a look at Hanson. The industrial conglomerate, whose activities range from chemicals to timber, is gaining from the US economic recovery.

Hard evidence should come with its third-quarter results tomorrow. Analysts' forecasts range between pounds 280m to pounds 315m, up from pounds 256m before tax last year. At 265p, they yield 5.5 per cent and are attractive for the long term.

SHARES in Persona, the distributor of networking products for personal computers, are a snip at 165p - barely 5p higher than the price at which they were placed on the stock market last April.

Demand for networking products - which enable computers to link up with each other - is growing at about 20 per cent a year. As UK distributor for many of the world's leading networking companies, Persona is profiting from the boom. The company should make taxable profits of pounds 1m for the first half, putting it on target for pounds 2.2m for the full year ending 31 December. That rates the shares on about 11 times 1994 earnings. A re-rating looks overdue.

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