City File: Flattered figures

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DO NOT be taken in by tomorrow's apparent good news from John Menzies, the Edinburgh- based newspaper and book sellers. Profits are expected to rise 7 per cent to pounds 23m pre-tax for the year to April. The bad news is that the figures will be flattered by the absence of last year's exceptional charges on the Hammicks retail operation, thought to be up for sale. The broker County NatWest reckons underlying pre-tax profits will be 10 per cent down, though it forecast a small rise in the dividend total to 10p net.

The City would like a little more detail - Menzies is, after all, in the information business - on its divisional profits breakdown and on plans for the Early Learning shops in the US. EL is yet another UK retailing brainwave that failed on export to the Land of the Free, where the chain loses money. A pounds 15m provision against EL's US losses runs out this year, and further red ink is feared, whether or not the American chain is sold. Menzies shares are a sell.