Duty-free worries as Ronson's flame dims

RONSON, the troubled cigarette lighter maker which boasts Victor Kiam as its chairman, saw its flame grow weaker yesterday when it warned of escalating losses caused by increased re-organisation costs and stock provisions. The company has huge stockpiles of watches and ear-rings for the Ronson Duty Free subsidiary which sells gifts though airlines like BA. The stock includes 8,000 Montine watches against forecast sales of 800 this year and have never previously been accounted for.

The company said losses for the year to December 1997 would now be in the region of pounds 11.5m compared with previous estimates of around pounds 7m. The shares lost a further 18 per cent of their value to close 1.75p lower at 5.75p. They stood at 65.75p three years ago.

Victor Kiam was in London yesterday for the board meeting. It is understood that he is still supportive of the company.

Charles Stanley, the company's broker, is helping arrange a pounds 6m re-financing.

"A detailed announcement in relation to the progress of the fund raising will be made along with the preliminary announcement in the near future," the company said.

Yesterday's warning is the second in four months.

In March Victor Kiam, acquired 10 per cent of Ronson and became part- time chairman. He is expected to subscribe to the rights issue being organised by 17 per cent shareholder Albion consortium fund.

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