DORLING KINDERSLEY may publish some of the more fun books in the local shop, but for shareholders it's been more of a horror story. Having watched their investment lose three-quarters of its value in the past two years, they may be forgiven for doubting that this particular tale has a happy ending.
Nevertheless, Dorling yesterday did a good job of convincing the City that it has not completely lost the plot. The strong pound and turmoil in emerging markets - about 1.5 per cent of Dorling's sales are in Russia - meant sales only inched ahead to pounds 184m in the year to June. But the benefits of a draconian cost-cutting programme meant pre-tax profits were up 17 per cent to pounds 9m. There is more to come: chairman Peter Kindersley says cost savings will amount to an extra pounds 3m in the coming year, rising to pounds 5m by June 2000.
This, combined with Dorling's decision to scale back its multimedia operations and concentrate on educational publishing, means the company should avoid some of the embarrassing slips of the past. James Middlehurst, appointed chief executive last month, should also beef up the company's embryonic on-line sales operation.
Panmure Gordon expects profits of pounds 10.5m in the current year, putting the shares - up 25p to 205p yesterday - on a forward earnings multiple of 22. The shares discount Dorling's recovery prospects, but with the possibility of a bid the shares are worth holding.