Partridge blames weak dollar for slump

Click to follow
The Independent Online

A lack of profligate Americans has hit Partridge Fine Arts, the London-based art and antiques dealer, which yesterday issued a profit warning.

The company said the sliding US dollar was putting Americans off coming to London and visiting its Bond Street store. This had a "marked effect" on its turnover and profitability, it said.

Unaudited losses in the five months to 31 March spiralled to £475,000 and the board expects its interim result will also show a loss. Shares in Partridge Fine Arts slumped 6 per cent to 66p yesterday.

Richard Ratner, an analyst at Seymour Pierce, now expects the group to barely break even this year, rather than report a profit of £500,000.

The downturn in trading, which was exacerbated by the failure to secure a crucial spring New York exhibition, comes just weeks after the resignation of Frank Partridge, a board director and the son of the company's chairman and managing director, John.

Mr Ratner said: "Perhaps the family is rather more fragmented than one might have thought."

Anthony Smith, the finance director, yesterday revealed that Frank Partridge had received a £140,000 payoff ­ equivalent to one year's salary. Industry observers expect Frank Partridge, who announced he was leaving to do his "own thing", to set up a rival antiques firm.

Mr Smith said the group, which deals in Old Master paintings and fine 18th century English and French furniture, had never recovered from the post 11 September travel slump. The weakness in the value of the US dollar was adding to its woes, he said.

"It's not people not being interested but them not wanting to commit themselves to buying with the dollar at this level, inferring that if and when the exchange rate improves, they might," Mr Smith said.

Partridge Fine Arts, which embraced Saturday trading only about a year ago, is to exhibit at the Grosvenor House Art & Antiques Fair this summer for the first time in 50 years. It is also planning to return to New York in the autumn, with an exhibition at the International Fine Art and Antiques Dealers Show.