More O'Ferrall slides to pounds 5m: Hoarding company maintains dividend

MORE O'FERRALL, the advertising hoarding company which operates about a quarter of all poster and bus-shelter sites in the UK, announced a 13 per cent fall in pre-tax profits to pounds 5.0m.

More's shares rose 12p to 242p, reflecting surprise in the market that the dividend, uncovered by earnings, was maintained.

Andrew Gore-Andrews, chairman, said: 'There is some evidence of strengthening demand for our products but after several false dawns since 1990 we are treating with caution the signs of improvement.'

Sales in the UK and Ireland were flat at pounds 38m but, stripping out the benefit of 170 new poster sites, like-for-like sales were 5 per cent down, reflecting price discounts to attract business.

Mr Gore-Andrews said most of the company's costs, such as site rental, lighting and depreciation, were beyond its control. As a result, there was a disproportionate drop in UK operating profits from pounds 7.1m to pounds 4.2m. In 1990 the division made profits of pounds 11m on sales of pounds 42m.

On the Continent, Belgium had a strong year, increasing profits from pounds 1.4m to pounds 2.1m. The company said it would be surprised to match that figure this year.

The contribution from France slipped to pounds 790,000 from pounds 855,000 and the first quarter of the current year, ahead of the election, has been quiet.

In California, a loss of about pounds 300,000 prompted the disposal of a business supplying advertising on the backs of benches at an extraordinary cost of pounds 4.8m. Taiwan made a 'useful contribution', estimated at pounds 250,000.

Mr Gore-Andrews said industry projections for growth in advertising revenue in the UK ranged between about 4 and 8 per cent in 1993.

He said the outlook was one reason for maintaining the dividend at 13.2p, despite a fall in earnings per share from 14.9p to 11.0p. The company also felt an obligation to shareholders who invested pounds 13.4m at the time of a rights issue in 1991.

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