L&M in profit for first time since 1989

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LONDON & Metropolitan, the struggling property company, returned to the black last year thanks to its second financial restructuring in three years.

Despite the first profit since 1989, L&M was forced to write down to zero an investment in a south of France leisure and housing development after long negotiations to secure a joint venture arrangement with a French partner.

A pounds 7.7m provision was taken against the Pont Royal project in Aix-en-Provence, which Chris Harris, chairman, said represented L&M's total investment in the scheme. More than 1,000 houses surrounding a golf course are planned although only about 100 homes have been built so far.

Without the benefit of a pounds 20.2m exceptional credit reflecting the write-back of provisions and the de-consolidation of loss-making subsidiaries, the company lost pounds 5.2m at the operating level to December 1993 compared with a pounds 7.4m loss in 1992.

Including the credit, and after sharply lower interest payments, there was a pre-tax profit of pounds 10.2m compared with a pounds 19.6m loss in 1992. Earnings per share were 21.2p (30.2p loss).

A debt-for-equity swap, finalised last October, wiped out the company's net liabilities of pounds 60m to leave net assets of pounds 1.2m. It followed a similar refinancing in 1991, which was prompted by a pounds 100m loss in the previous financial year.

In Britain, L&M has started work on the first of five proposed factory outlet shopping centres.

The 107,000 sq ft scheme at Bicester is expected to open next spring and is already 25 per cent let.

UK Land, owner of the pink Elephant and Castle shopping centre, also benefited from a financial restructuring, reporting a pounds 45m pre-tax profit which included a pounds 43.6m exceptional surplus.

Earnings per share were 10.1p (loss of 59p). The shares closed unchanged at 34p.