No Pain, No Gain: Our Man's Portfolio - Global still has taste for success

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MISSING THE boat in the stock market is an annoying experience. A double miss is infuriating.

I had been looking into Global, the food group, for a couple of weeks and had decided the shares would make an ideal addition to my portfolio.

Imagine my dismay when they romped ahead last week - rising from 15.75p to 22.5p before settling at 20p. Had I missed the boat or was there still plenty of headroom?

After some soul searching, I have come to the conclusion the shares are still worth backing, even at their more exalted level. Of course, the room for improvement has narrowed significantly, but the inevitable appearance of profit takers as the stock market retreated on Monday has provided a welcome window of opportunity.

The group's prospects certainly look encouraging and stockbroker WestLB Panmure, perhaps being rather conservative, estimate profits of pounds 4.5m this year and nudging pounds 5m next. Last time it produced a little over pounds 3m.

Global was a casualty of the BSE crisis and the collapse of economic confidence in the Far East. In 1997 profits disappeared with a pounds 1.65m loss replacing a peak pounds 4.2m profit.

Under the direction of chairman Ken Manley the group has clawed its way back and its meat division has recovered the ground lost.

But Global is not merely a meat group. It is involved in the growing field of ready prepared convenience foods and produces a wide range of pastry products. It is also the biggest supplier of beef burgers to independent retailers.

In addition to its food interests, Global is involved in warehousing and fork lift trucks, ranking as the largest Toyota fork lift truck dealer in the country.

Mr Manley arrived five years ago. The task of transforming Global into a much more focused food group has proved to be a daunting task, with problems at a mobile catering off-shoot as well as the BSE debacle and the Far East fall-out creating problems. The shares were at one time down to 9p.

But he has an impressive record in the food industry and last year's display indicates he has got Global moving ahead again. Before moving in on the group, where he has built an 11.8 per cent interest, Mr Manley founded and then built Freshbake Foods which was sold a decade ago to US giant Campbell Soup in a pounds 100m-plus deal.

During his reign at Global, he has put through a number of deals and was at one time rumoured to be planning a bid for Sims Foods, the meat group which last week signalled it had received a takeover approach. The predator, described as a "financial buyer", appears to be fronting a full or partial management buy-out. Naturally Sims shares responded; they are now riding at 48.5p, near their highest for three years.

Sims could tempt Mr Manley, as his group, with its rambling spread of interests, is not as focused as he intended. He was, it was once said, keen to sell the fork lift truck side. But last year the division was expanded by takeovers and now accounts for 20 per cent of Toyota's fork lift truck sales in Britain, spreading from London to North Yorkshire.

Whether it has been fattened up for a sale remains to be seen.

What does seem apparent is Global, with many of its problems behind it, will not be standing still.

Mr Manley has some way to go before he lifts the company's capitalisation, now around pounds 30m, to the sort of level at which Freshbake bade a fond farewell.

I suspect Global, which declares it is "back on track" in its recently published yearly report, could well be a double miss if I allow myself to be frightened off by the recent share performance. Even after the gain, the rating is still not too demanding and offers sufficient comfort to justify a place in my portfolio.

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