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Farnell hit by strength of pound

PREMIER FARNELL, the troubled electronics components distributor, yesterday blamed tough trading conditions in the UK and US for a decline in sales.

In a trading statement, Premier, which specialises in selling electronics products via catalogue, said that sales in the first half of the year were down 2.9 per cent to pounds 364.9m, including a pounds 5m hit from the pound's strength

Premier Farnell's shares have lost more than 60 per cent of their value since the end of January when the company issued the first of three profits warnings. Yesterday they staged a modest rally, closing up 6.5p to 233p.

The company, which ousted its chief executive Howard Poulson in January after months of underperformance, yesterday said that sales in Britain had been hit by the recession in the manufacturing sector. The industrial slump caused a 1.5 per cent slide in the turnover of Farnell, its core catalogue division, due to the strength of sterling."

The US division had seen sales squeezed between excess supply from producers and weaker demand caused by the Asian crisis.

Andrew Fisher, the finance director, said that Premier's main markets were expected to remain under pressure for the remainder of the year. The new chief executive, John Hirst, was conducting a strategic review of the business, he added.

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