Hi-Tec blames rivals for loss: Sports shoe maker in red as turnover falls 16%

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The Independent Online
FIERCE price-cutting by rivals pushed Hi-Tec Sports, the troubled sports shoes maker run by Frank van Wezel, from a pounds 9m taxable profit to an pounds 8.3m loss for the year to 31 January, writes Neil Thapar.

The results, in line with the company's warning last month, partly reflected a 16 per cent fall in group turnover to pounds 107m. Hi-Tec blamed the recession and dumping of excess stocks by US competitors such as Nike and Reebok for the problems.

Although it maintained volumes, operating profit in Britain slumped from a pounds 7m profit to pounds 1.6m loss, forcing the company to cut a quarter of its 160 workers. However, Hi-Tec said there were growing signs of firm prices and the UK arm made a small profit in the first quarter of this year.

In Europe the company slipped from a pounds 1.8m profit to a pounds 2.7m loss, hit by the high running costs of an extensive network of subsidiaries. It now plans to close offices in seven territories and replace them with local distributors. Restructuring costs led to a pounds 4.8m exceptional charge last year.

The company fared better in North America, where profits rose by a quarter to pounds 2.4m after the successful launch of a footwear range comprising 60 different styles.

The results were accompanied by the appointment of two new non-executive directors to replace Sir Michael Edwardes, the former British Leyland boss, and Richard Fenhalls, ex-chief executive of Henry Ansbacher, the merchant bank.

Both suddenly resigned from the group last month after just eight weeks in their jobs. It is believed their departure was caused by personality clashes and differences over policy with Mr van Wezel, who owns a majority stake.

The incoming directors are John Sharkey, chairman of BDDP UK, the advertising company, and Roger Rowland, former chairman of Lambert Howarth, the shoe firm.

Hi-Tec shares, which have collapsed from a peak of about 200p, closed up 1p yesterday at 40p.

The final dividend was cut from 3.85p to 1p, making a total of 2p against 5.5p.

(Graph omitted)

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