Freepages on upward turn

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The Independent Online
Freepages, the AIM-listed telephone information service, whose shares were hit when former chairman Ronald Zimet became embroiled with Andrew Regan's failed attempt to take over the Co-op, reduced its losses in the third quarter of this year and appointed Cazenove as joint brokers to the company.

The appointment of Cazenove, one of the most blue blooded of City firms, to operate alongside brokers Collins Stewart, was seen by observers as a significant step by Freepages away from the various controversies which have hit it this year.

When asked whether Mr Zimet's resignation had done any lasting damage to Freepages, chief executive Robert Bonnier said: "No, I don't think so. Robert had no operational role in the company. He was chairman and that's all. We have a highly talented team here who continue to deliver good results."

Mr Zimet resigned from Freepages after failing to answer questions about a pounds 2.4m payment he received from Andrew Regan's Hobson group two years ago, a payment for helping to negotiate an extended supply agreement with the Co-op.

Mr Zimet was replaced by Dick Eykel, 56, a non-executive director with Freepages since December. The payment to Mr Zimet's British Virgin Islands- based Trellis International was one of the issues the Co-op used to discredit Mr Regan's pounds 1.2bn bid.

Freepages yesterday reported a pre-tax loss for the third quarter to June of pounds 2.38m against a loss of pounds 2.596m for the same period last year, with a loss per share of 0.81 pence (0.49p). The shares rose 1.5p yesterday to 38p.

The company provides phone callers with information on services in their locality, and receives fees from the local businesses that pay to be listed on its books.

Mr Bonnier says he expects the company's UK operations to break into profit "in the latter part of the next financial year". The overseas businesses, in particular the joint venture with VNU, would take longer to break even, he added.

Yesterday Mr Eykel said Freepages' compounded revenue growth rate during the first three-quarters of its 1996/97 financial year has been more than 32 per cent.