Gains at Granada benefit Robinson

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The Independent Online
GERRY ROBINSON, chief executive of Granada Group, the leisure and television company, saw his personal profits from share options reach more than pounds 1m as the shares soared on strong results yesterday.

Mr Robinson, who was drafted in a year ago on a pounds 350,000 salary, now has profits on paper of pounds 1.1m after the shares spurted from 309p to 334p. His 737,500 options are exercisable at 184p after three years.

Granada lifted pre-tax profits by 129 per cent to pounds 130m in the year to 26 September, improving its performance in every division and turning round its troubled computer services operation.

Operating profits from television rental shops increased 9 per cent to pounds 98m. Returns from the television company rose 50 per cent to pounds 33m, boosted by a lower Exchequer levy.

Leisure, which includes motorway service stations, and nightclubs, was up 16 per cent to pounds 27m. Computer services recovered from a pounds 12m loss to profits of pounds 9m.

However, the group faces a possible liability of more than pounds 20m, which Customs & Excise says is owed in VAT on insurance for rental products. Provision has not been made for this sum.

The case began this week at the VAT tribunal and judgment is expected in six to eight weeks.

Thorn EMI, which also operates large TV rental chains, is understood to have an even greater sum at stake.

Mr Robinson said Granada had taken legal advice and was very confident it would win. The disputed sum, which rises by pounds 3m every quarter, is deposited with Customs & Excise.

Mr Robinson played down speculation that Granada, which makes no secret of its takeover ambitions, would bid for Yorkshire Television. 'There's no particular reason why it should be Yorkshire,' he said. The benefits of its proximity to the Granada region were overstated, he said.

Mr Robinson, who triggered a storm of protest when he sacked the Granada TV head David Plowright last February, said the television side had been 'under- managed'.

Over the year 1,800 jobs were axed by the group, leaving just under 20,000. More job losses are expected this year in the rentals division, which shed 600 jobs last year.

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