Forte shares defy slide in profits

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The Independent Online
FORTE, the hotels group, saw profits crash from pounds 42m to pounds 24m before tax in the six months to 31 July - even less than recently reduced forecasts had suggested.

Forte's shares, however, rose from 135p to 149p, helped by prospects of recovery in the second half and next year.

Rocco Forte, the chief executive, told stockbroking analysts that there would be board changes before the full year results were announced. But he declined to give details.

The interim dividend was maintained at 2.75p, even though earnings per share slipped from 3.8p to 1.6p.

Nomura, the brokers, had cut their forecast to pounds 32m earlier this month.

They expect the company to make pounds 80m in the full year and pounds 117m next year.

Mr Forte said Gardner Merchant was for sale for more than pounds 400m if the buyer could satisfy the needs of the management and staff to ensure continuity and protect customers.

Profits were hit by higher depreciation and interest charges. The company pays 10.5 per cent interest rates on average.

The company also had to meet the cost of a 9 per cent wages council increase. Mr Forte welcomed the promised abolition of wages councils.

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