More O'Ferrall turns to China spacey

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More O' Ferrall, the outdoor advertising company, is taking its first tentative steps into the Chinese market, having signed a joint venture with a state agency in Hubei province to erect a small number of billboards in 1995.

"We view this joint venture as a test bed," Russell Gore-Andrews, chairman, said.

The project called for 15 billboards initially, rising to about 50 later, requiring a low capital investment.

More O'Ferrall, with 75 per cent of its profits earned in Ireland and the UK, has already expanded modestly into continental and emerging markets, focusing on France and Belgium. Its push into Taiwan, where it is profitable, gave the company the cultural and commercial experience to penetrate the mainland market, Mr Gore-Andrews said.

Following three difficult years, the company yesterday reported pre-tax profits in 1994 of £9.5m, up 23 per cent from a year earlier, on turnover of £73.8m. Despite the improvement, the company did not increase its dividend, which remains at 13.2p.

Discussing the company's operations, Mr Gore-Andrews said the Belgian market for outdoor advertising was difficult in 1994 but he expected improvements in 1995. France was still sluggish early in 1995, in part due to a price war among competititors.

Not counting the small Taiwan operations, the UK and Irish markets showed the best growth in turnover, largely due to higher prices charged for existing advertising sites, including bus shelters and bill boards.

More O'Ferrall is upgrading more of its UK bus shelter advertising sites to incorporate interior lighting.