Fitch-RS shares suspended

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FITCH-RS, the design group that created chequebooks for Midland Bank's First Direct and branches for Next and the new-look Asda, saw its shares suspended yesterday as it called for talks between its creditors and a third party that might inject fresh capital into the group, writes Jason Nisse.

Rodney Fitch, chairman, said the company was in talks with an international group that was ready to put money into the company.

He said he wanted the prospective investor to sit down with other interested parties - which include National Westminster Bank, owed more than pounds 7.5m - to discuss a capital restructuring.

The shares were suspended at 42p, having touched 462p in October 1987, the year Fitch won an award for redesigning Midland's bank branches.

The suspension was the culmination of a series of problems for Fitch, where a turndown in fortunes in the UK and abroad coincided with some misfortunes on the property side. Fitch ended up with three central London properties, only one of which it occupies.

Fitch moved premises two years ago from two sites in Soho to a new office that it designed and built for itself in King's Cross at a cost of more than pounds 6m.

It sublet one of the old offices to a film company, which later collapsed, but was unable to let the other.

These leases are now costing pounds 650,000 a year and Mr Fitch said he hoped to include the landlords of the premises, a small property company and a pension fund, in the restructuring talks.

At the same time as Fitch was incurring these extra expenses, the UK retailing market turned down and contracts for Fitch's work dried up.

International work, including designing some of the stands at Expo '92 in Seville, bouyed the group but now these have stopped as well.

'Design is investment-led, and at the moment there is no investment in UK retailing or industry,' Mr Fitch said.

However, he is confident that his company will recover from its problems. 'No one can convince me, even in my deepest moments of depression, that there is not a rosy future for the design process,' he said yesterday.

But the group is in a precarious financial position. Creditors were owed pounds 12m at 31 December while its fixed assets were just pounds 12.4m. It lost pounds 680,000 last year and pounds 500,000 in 1990, and in neither year did it pay a dividend.

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