Merivale plunges to loss of 13m pounds

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The Independent Online
MERIVALE Moore, the residential and commercial property company, has scrapped its final dividend after plunging into the red. Losses of pounds 13m for the year to 30 June compare with profits last time of pounds 615,000. Last year the total dividend was 10.5p.

Losses of pounds 3.3m at the operating level were compounded by a pounds 9.6m write-off after revaluation of the property portfolio. Interest charges on net debt just short of pounds 50m were down pounds 1.1m at pounds 8.7m.

Grenville Dean, chairman and 20 per cent shareholder, said poor management decisions in 1991 had combined with the recession to reduce profits by 91 per cent. 'Last year we took responsibility for that and I ate large amounts of humble pie at the annual general meeting.'

But he added: 'The (current) debility of the company and the dreadful erosion of its assets stem unequivocally from a single source - a fraught and failing UK economy.'

'Negative though it may sound, no amount of willpower, skill or hard work could have arrested that decline . . . It's a dud market. There is no confidence.'

Turnover fell by 61 per cent to pounds 30.3m, a greater fall than expected, and there was an extraordinary charge of pounds 7.7m for write- downs on long-term property investments. Net rental income fell by 39 per cent to pounds 2.5m

Since the year-end, Mr Dean said, there had been some movement in the residential sector, which contributes 40 per cent of the company's business.

'Several times a week we have buyers. Our vacant space is being taken up but at low and painfully slow levels.' In mid-August there were a number of sales as buyers rushed to beat the deadline for the reimposition of stamp duty.

Merivale's pounds 4.3m worth of undeveloped commercial sites count for 7 per cent of assets. It has 52,000 sq ft to let, against 115,000 sq ft six months ago.

Tenants have been found for 80 per cent of the 180,000sq ft development at Vision Park, Cambridge.

Mr Dean was 'optimistic, not despondent' and said the board would not be slow to resume dividend payments once the company returned to profits and reduced borrowings further.

He said management had been improved and overheads reduced. There was a loss per share of 144p against earnings last year of 12.7p. Yesterday the shares fell 1p to 14p.