Hogg Robinson shaken up

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The Independent Online
NEW CHAIRMAN Neville Bain has taken Hogg Robinson, the travel and financial services group, by the scruff of the neck and shaken some life into it by a mixture of disposals and management focus.

The pensions mis-selling scandal still hangs over it but a hefty pounds 10m provision in next year's accounts should finally confine that episode to the history books. The size of the provision sent shares plunging 29.5p to 289.5p yesterday but the fall looks overdone. Management displayed its optimism about the future by unveiling a final dividend of 6.93p, making a total for the year of 11.0p, up 12.2 per cent.

The payout - which follows last year's share buyback - came after total group pre-tax and pre-exceptional profits rose from pounds 28.1m last time to pounds 30.1m for the 12 months to March 31.

Last year's clear-out involved the sale of Hogg Robinson's transport division but the group also bought two business travel operations. It has started the new year in the same way, taking a 51 per cent stake in Canada's Hider Travel.

Currency factors cost the company pounds 1.8m last year and it is losing some business as a result of the Asian crisis. But analysts expect 1998 profits of pounds 32m, putting the company on a future earnings multiple of 11. After yesterday's fall, buy.