More O'Ferrall profits soar: Poster advertising group ahead 'in difficult conditions'

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MORE O'FERRALL, Britain's biggest poster advertising group, is resuming its programme of converting bus shelter sites after strong recovery in its domestic market.

The group saw profits soar to pounds 7.5m before tax in 1993, against just pounds 220,000 the previous year, but the 1992 result was distorted by a pounds 4.4m provision against the disposal of the loss-making US subsidiary. In 1993, the group has written back pounds 750,000 from that provision.

Brian Turnbull, finance director, said: 'The progress apparent at the interim stage has been maintained in spite of difficult conditions in our markets.'

Russell Gore-Andrews, chairman, said that trading in the first two months of the year was encouraging, but warned the market was still fragile and customers were still booking on a short-term basis.

He added that the UK poster advertising market had still to return to 1989 levels, giving scope for considerable growth. The group's programme to convert bus shelter sites from the traditional four-sheet poster format to the Adshel single- sheet design has resumed after being shelved at the end of the 1980s.

More O'Ferrall now has 19,000 shelters, of which 12,000 have the new format. The resumption of the conversion programme will cause capital expenditure to rise sharply from the pounds 4.8m spent in 1993.

Most of the growth in turnover, which was 10 per cent higher in continuing operations at pounds 67.6m, came from the UK and Ireland, which accounted for 64 per cent of sales.

The group is still experiencing difficulties in Continental Europe. Its French operation moved into loss in the second half and Mr Gore- Andrews said costs were being cut.

In Belgium, operating profits fell pounds 300,000 to pounds 1.8m despite benefiting from the decline in sterling's value.

Mr Turnbull hinted that More O'Ferrall's small Taiwanese subsidiary, which made pounds 315,000 in 1993, might beat France in profit terms this year.

The dividend is held at 13.2p. The shares remained at 423p.

(Photograph omitted)