Fashion group Jaeger cheers Jon Moulton

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The Independent Online

Jaeger was one of the few bright spots in an update yesterday from the veteran venture capitalist Jon Moulton's Better Capital.

The fashion group "enjoyed a strong Christmas trade" with sales up 20 per cent in the final 13 weeks of last year. Margins fell 4.4 per cent below budget because of heavier sales discounting. The company will make a loss again for 2013 but materially less than the £4.4m it lost in 2012.

Better Capital warned two weeks ago that two of the largest investments in its 2009 portfolio would suffer big writedowns when it comes to their valuation at the end of March.

Yesterday it confirmed that those businesses were the aerospace engineer Gardner, which it bought in 2010, and the office supplies group Spicers, purchased in 2011.

Mr Moulton said: "The board shares the frustrations expressed by shareholders at the recent developments in this fund and has received reassurances that the key issues are being firmly addressed."

He revealed that there had been recent appointments to the operating side of the fund manager, including the turnaround expert Thierry Bouzac.

In addition, Mr Moulton also confirmed that Better Capital's 2009 fund has sold Reader's Digest for a token £1.

It bought the publisher out of administration for £14m in 2010 and then spent another £23m on it before putting it into voluntary liquidation last year, in a move which saw 95 out of 125 staff lose their jobs.

It is being bought by Mike Luckwell, who was once the largest shareholder in the ITV franchise holder Carlton Communiciations, and who also invested in the advertising giant WPP and Hit Entertainment, the company behind children's favourites Barney the Dinosaur and Bob the Builder.

Reader's Digest still has almost a quarter of a million subscribers to its eponymous magazine, as well as its prize-draw business.

Mr Luckwell is believed to be looking to expand Reader's Digest into financial services targeting its mature readership along the lines of Saga Magazine.