Flowers to demerge Stanley Gibbons

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Flying Flowers, the flower delivery group, performed a dramatic U-turn yesterday when it announced plans to de-merge its Stanley Gibbons stamps business less than two years after it was acquired.

The decision marks the end of a disastrous attempt by the airborne florist to expand its mail-order expertise. Flying Flowers paid £13.5m for Stanley Gibbons in June 1998 but was immediately hit by trading problems and profits warnings. Having peaked at 592.5p in 1998 the shares fell to 95p this January. They closed 2.5p lower at 137.5p yesterday.

Robert Norbury, the chairman, said: "I am trying to repair the damage done. The Stanley Gibbons deal was at the wrong price and at the wrong time."

The biggest loser in the affair has been Paul Fraser who accepted shares in Flying Flowers when he sold Stanley Gibbons. His £13.5m is worth around £4m.

He is staying on as chairman of the de-merged business which will be called Communitie.com and listed on AIM. It will include Stanley Gibbons, which has a burgeoning online business and Collector Café, a community Web site.

Flying Flowers will be re-named Flying Brands to reflect the broader spread of its interests which includes the Gardening Direct mail-order operation.

Flying Flowers also announced a full year loss of £7.8m yesterday. This was largely as a result of £4.7m of exceptional charges related to a £7.7m write-down on the value of Stanley Gibbons.

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