Singer & Friedlander signals further market recovery

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The Independent Online

Singer & Friedlander, the banking and asset management group, yesterday joined a growing number of City institutions to point to a growing mood of optimism among private investors.

John Hodson, chief executive of S&F, added to the positive picture, predicting the FTSE 100 index would be "10 per cent higher" by the end of the year from its current level of 4,251 points.

However, the first six months were tough for S&F, in common with the asset management sector, and it reported a 22 per cent drop in pre-tax profits to £14.6m in the six months to 30 June.

While the company painted an upbeat picture about current sentiment, it cautioned that the next six months would still be difficult. Paul Selway-Swift, chairman of S&F, said: "The outlook for economic strength remains fragile, both in the UK and globally." S&F's shares moved up 11p to 170p. Asset management profits plunged 57 per cent to £1.6m in the first half. Weak markets accounted for most of the decline, the company said. "We collect management fees on two dates every year. We took them in March, when the FTSE was 3,600, compared to the same time last year, when it was 5,200," Mr Hodson said.

Earlier this year S&F appointed its first ever-female board director, recruiting Sarah Rutherford, a former journalist at The Sunday Times and consultant, to the board. The company said Ms Rutherford's area of expertise was in "employment-related issues, an aspect of our business which is of critical importance".

However, Mr Hodson yesterday dismissed the idea that the move was an attempt to head off the flood of claims of sex discrimination which have bogged down rival companies such as Investec in damaging legal battles. "We have not had any sex discrimination claims. We have employed her to widen the scope of the board," Mr Hodson said.

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