Weak economy translates into lower BPP profit

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The Independent Online

BPP, the education company that offers training courses in accounting, law and tax, reported a 12 per cent drop in profits as demand for its language training and financial services courses waned.

A strong performance from its law division helped offset some of the damage, however, and should enable it to increase profits for the year as a whole. Shares in the company closed up 7.5p at 306.5.

"Notwithstanding the difficulties experienced by our financial services and language training divisions, we expect the rising contribution from our law division will enable us to report an overall increase in profits for 2003," chief executive Charles Prior said.

In the six months to 30 June, the company reported a pretax profit of £5.55m down from £6.3m in the same period a year before. Turnover rose eight per cent to £55.7m.

Linguarama, its language training arm, had a particularly tough time, hurt by "adverse economic conditions" throughout Europe. Profits dropped 41 per cent to £353,000 on sales, down 6.5 per cent, at £8.6m.

"As expected, language training was badly affected by the weak economy," said analysts at Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein.

The other weak spot was in its financial services division, which offers qualifications including the Chartered Financial Analyst and the Investment Management Certificate. Sales there slumped 25 per cent to £3.9m.

No real improvement is expected in either of these divisions in the second half of the year.

The bright spot was the company's law division, which reported a 45 per cent rise in sales to £9.7m in the first half, and which is expected to continue on a positive trend for the rest of the year.

BPP said it also saw a solid performance from its accountancy and tax division as well as from its actuarial and academic education businesses in the first half.

"Our financial services and language training businesses continue to suffer in adverse conditions. Our other businesses are reasonably resilient and we expect that the rising contribution from our law division will enable us to report an overall increase in profits for 2003," BPP said. It raised its half-year dividend to 4.4p a share from 4p.

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