Investment Column: Mice discovers rich pickings

Click to follow
Last year's hotly contested bid for Blenheim, the exhibition management group, showed just how exciting this market has become for many big media players. And the crumbs provide rich pickings for many of the smaller players too. Mice, a designer, manager and maker of displays for exhibitions, has seen its shares more than double from their 3p flotation price in December 1994. Yesterday, they were unchanged at 7.25p.

The market's phlegmatic reaction came in spite of news that pre-tax profits jumped 50 per cent to pounds 1.23m in the year to December. The latest cracking set of annual results is the third where growth has topped 50 per cent.

The figures got a pounds 235,000 boost from acquisitions and the group is lining up another three purchases. Deals totalling around pounds 750,000 for a small point of sale display company and a design and service company are expected to be completed in the next few days. Further out, the group continues to look for purchases to expand operations in the Benelux countries and Germany. Cash and borrowing facilities give it firepower of up to pounds 3m.

Mice, an acronym for museums, interiors, conferences and exhibitions, sees plenty of scope for market growth. In the UK, it is starting to see the first flowering of the pounds 100m or so pumped into the museums and "heritage" market from National Lottery funds. Once the election uncertainty passes, Mice is also hoping for a boost from the events surrounding the millennium. Meanwhile, it is continuing its thrust abroad, which took it into a record 29 countries in the first quarter of 1997.

The group's confidence is backed by a forward order book topping pounds 10m, including three big exhibits at an Atlanta computer games conference in June. Profits of pounds 1.6m this year would put the shares on a forward multiple of 12. Reasonable value, although the market is tight with chairman Mike Curley and family sitting on 30 per cent.