In Brief

Company News

WPP, the world's biggest advertising and marketing agency, said trading in the first quarter was ahead of last year, prompting analysts to upgrade profit forecasts. Revenues grew 13 per cent to pounds 390m in the three months to March, equivalent to like-for-like growth of 10 per cent, helping to lift gross profits by 13 per cent. The group, which owns J Walter Thompson and Ogilvy & Mather, said operating margins had continued to rise in line with the objective of increasing them by at least 1 percentage point a year. BZW is thought to have raised its full-year forecast from pounds 137m to pounds 144m, while house brokers Panmure Gordon moved their estimate up pounds 5m to pounds 145m.

Rentokil continued the attack on bid target BET, claiming that negative cash flow could force the embattled business services group into a rights issue to finance future growth. Currently visiting Scottish institutions, Rentokil said BET's cash flow before acquisitions had declined over the past four years and was negative in the past two. It questioned how it could finance the future growth on which its defence is based without cutting expenditure or raising money from a share issue or further borrowing. BET's shares dipped 1p to 201.5p, putting them just below Rentokil's pounds 3bn offer, now worth just short of 213p after the bidder's shares gained 1p at 353p.

Italian shares soared after the clear left-of-centre victory in Sunday's general election. The prospect of a stable government drove the MIB-30 index up 5.7 per cent, or 840 points, to 15,617. The lira reached a six- month high of 1,024.4 against the German mark, compared with Friday's close of 1,042.

Hamish McRae, page 22

McCain Foods is buying Everest Foods for pounds 28m, equal to 110p per share. Directors of Everest and their immediate family members have given irrevocable undertakings to accept the offer in respect of approximately 58.3 per cent of Everest's share capital.

Sega Enterprises said its joint venture, Game Works, with Dream Work, headed by film maker Steven Spielberg, and Seagram unit MCA will soon seek a listing on Nasdaq. The venture aims to have 100 amusement parks in the US in five years, starting with the first launch in Seattle in November.

Sears, the retail group which is expected to announce a sharp fall in profits today, is selling Hoogenbosch Beheer, its Dutch shoe retailing subsidiary, to a management-led team backed by CVC Capital Partners and CINVen. Net proceeds from the sale of the business and related freehold properties will total pounds 46.6m. It made pre-tax profits of pounds 1.4m in the year to 3 February.

Invesco has increased the amount of funds under management from pounds 53.8m at the end of 1995 to pounds 56.7bn in the three months to the March, reflecting market appreciation and new business.

Smiths Industries has bought acquired electrical conduit maker Adaptaflex and industrial ventilation maker Air Movement for a combined pounds 68.6m. The two privately owned companies were complementary to the existing industrial group activities in the UK, Continental Europe and the US, Smiths said. Adaptaflex made taxable profits of pounds 2.4m in the year to last June, while Air Movement made pounds 5.5m in the 12 months to March 1995.

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