Investment Column: Filofax bid hopes dashed

ROBIN FIELD, Filofax's chief executive, yesterday quietly killed off shareholders' hopes of a takeover bid or even a profitable joint venture that would revive the lagging fortunes of this once-trendy Eighties icon. "After a thorough exploration of several possibilities we have determined there is not such opportunity in the short term and these discussions have now been terminated," said Mr Field, who replaces founder David Collischon as chairman in July. The shares promptly lost 10 per cent of their value, dropping 17.5p to 161.5p.

Results for the year to March were also disappointing. In spite of the impact of the strong pound, profits from continuing operations rose 7 per cent to pounds 6.1m. However, this was wiped out by a pounds 7m exceptional hit on the loss-making greetings card business Henry Ling, sold at the end of the year.

Drakes, the office stationery business, saw sales of its own-label stationery dwindle to almost nothing. Filofax's time management business suffered while a contract to produce gift catalogues for BT was cancelled.

The group is now clearly focused on the ring-binder organiser market, where margins are still high and buoyant overseas markets now account for 60 per cent of sales. Analysts have trimmed forecasts for the current year to pounds 6.7m, putting the shares on a forward p/e ratio of less than 10. Although there are no bids on the table at present, the hope must be that a predator - possibly a financial buyer - will see some value in Filofax. For that reason, the shares are worth a punt.

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