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Investment: AMV eases fears of slump

YOU HAVE to feel for Abbott Mead Vickers. The advertising and marketing group has long avoided rash international ventures in favour of building up its business in the UK. Until a few months ago, this meant it was seen as a safe option in a risky industry. But then investors started worrying about the British economy and AMV shares promptly dropped 40 per cent.

Half year figures, released yesterday, went some way towards easing fears of an imminent slump. Adjusted for the sale of the Leagas Delaney agency, turnover was up 12 per cent, while operating profits jumped 18 per cent. The chairman, Peter Mead, insists there is no sign of a slowdown so far.

What's more, AMV believes it is better prepared this time. It argues that in tough economic times companies switch from building their brands to boosting sales with one-off campaigns. As a result, AMV has invested heavily in direct marketing and public relations businesses, which will protect revenues if traditional advertising spending tails off.

Of course, none of this will do much good if spending really begins to fall. Although it has built some flexibility into its wage bill, AMV's profits are still highly geared to any rise or fall in revenues.

Analysts have left full-year profit forecasts unchanged at about pounds 19.4m, putting AMV shares - which rose 28.5p to 292.5p yesterday - on a forward multiple of 18. That's a discount to AMV's larger rivals. But until the economic outlook clears the shares are no more than a hold.