Gerrard turns in 60% advance: Discount house group reports rise virtually across the board

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BLACK WEDNESDAY, upheavals in the exchange rate mechanism and the subsequent fall in interest rates and rise in the stock markets all helped Gerrard & National Holdings, the financial holdings and discount house group, to increase its profits for the year to 5 April by 60 per cent to pounds 25.2m.

Brian Williamson, chairman, was keen to stress yesterday that improvements came virtually across the board in a group that has diversified from its discount house base.

While traditional bill trading business did well from falling interest rates, the newer dealing side of the business covering stockbroking, futures and options and moneybroking contributed half of all profits and 90 per cent of the dividend, which edged up from 21p to 21.5p.

The group disclosed its inner reserves fully for the first time at pounds 6.1m, roughly in line with expectations. More dramatic figures emerged from the stocklending arm LM (Moneybrokers), where profits rose by 99 per cent to pounds 4.1m, and the stockbroker Gerrard Vivian Gray, which lifted profits 88 per cent to pounds 2.4m.

The market had been expecting good results, however, and profit-taking knocked 14p off the shares, which finished yesterday at 444p.

Karen Neal, an analyst at BZW, said: 'These are excellent results, but after the interest rate windfall the company is unlikely to increase profits again this year.' She forecast pre-tax profits this year of pounds 24.1m.

LM (Moneybrokers) has proved a bargain for Gerrard & National, which bought it from the administrators of British & Commonwealth in May 1991 for pounds 12m cash plus pounds 850,000 later against a then net asset value of pounds 14.5m. It prospered from the Government's rising borrowing requirement and the expansion in the gilts market.

Mr Williamson said Gerrard had traded profitably since its year-end and those group businesses with a January year-end, GNI and Gerrard Vivian Gray, had had successful first quarters.

Another discount house, King & Shaxson, also announced improved pre-tax profits for 1992 of pounds 2.2m against pounds 920,000. It paid a final dividend of 9p, up from 5p, but the shares eased 3p to 147p.