City File: Chain reaction

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The Independent Online
ON PAPER, WH Smith looks relatively good. In the past year, commercial stationery sales have risen and readers are still trooping into Waterstone's, its bookshop chain. But with the Monopolies Commission due to report on newspaper wholesalers soon, this could change.

Our Price, the music business, has also struck a wrong note, with discounts eating into margins and another monopolies inquiry - into compact disc prices - hanging over its head. All in all, it has made for a flat performance in the high street.

If only the same could be said for Do It All, the 230 DIY stores jointly owned with Boots. With pre-tax losses touching pounds 12m and pounds 4.5m in net interest, the screwdriver to shower curtain chain has dragged down the group.

On Wednesday, WH Smith will report pre-tax profits down 6 per cent on last year, from pounds 113m to pounds 106m. At 465p, the shares are a nerve-jangling hold.

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