Not what every shopper wanted

City Talk
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The Independent Online
THIS week, discount retailer What Everyone Wants will join Marks and Spencer in announcing final figures for the year to the end of July. And there the similarity between the two companies ends. Indeed, WEW is something of a misnomer for its shareholders. The shares remain in the doldrums, having lost most of their value over the last two years, on Friday's closing price of 16p. Ever since a profits warning in June that said the second half might show losses, the City has feared the worst. Part of the problem is the failure of the group's discount stores' format to spark the imagination of shoppers. Chairman Peter Carr has few fans in the City, and there is little to commend the shares. Sell.

EXPECT news of a deeply discounted rights issue from Roxspur, the specialist engineer and playground equipment group, as it seeks a way out of its troubles. The shares were suspended last month at 6.5p, after the group found it had bitten off more than it could chew with the purchase of the far bigger Wills Group through a pounds 27.6m share offer last spring. Since then, trading at the new subsidiary has declined sharply, and there has been a severe outflow of cash. Sources expect a rights to be priced as low as 1p a share, to raise upwards of pounds 2m. The shares should fall further when they are requoted, but there is little to induce purchases, even at lower levels.

AMONG a clutch of blue-chip results this week, interim figures for healthcare business Amersham International on Tuesday should give supporters some comfort. The City expects pre-tax profits to come in somewhere between pounds 50m and pounds 57m, up 14 per cent on last year's pounds 47.3m. The shares have been underperforming for a year, but the core business seems positioned for growth. Unless there is anything shocking, the shares at 948p are a buy.

US investment guru Jim Rogers has warned investors to avoid Russia - at least for the next few years. So it is unlikely he would be a fan of JKX Oil & Gas, floated in July at 190p. The shares ripped ahead to almost 230p after their debut, only to have stuttered all the way down to 184p on profit taking. But at its recent interim results, the company announced a string of exploration and test wells in the former Soviet Union. Stockbroker Henderson Crosthwaite has calculated the shares are worth up to 421p if these projects come to fruition. A big if - but if you fancy a rollercoaster ride, this is it.

THANKS to the nerds, Britain has the edge in computer games software. But there are few quoted opportunities for private investors to enjoy the benefits of this fast-growing market. Either the business is owned by large conglomerate concerns - Pearson is one example - or they remain resolutely private. One quoted route into the sector however is Bristol- based BCE Holdings. Since 1993, the group has transformed itself from an amusements arcade and snooker equipment supplier to become Europe's first, fully fledged computer games developer. The shares, at 24.75p, are on a demanding 23 times 1996 estimated pre-tax profits of pounds 3.2m. The key to its success lies with the outlook for new games consoles. Prospects for sales of the Sony Playstation and the Sega Saturn in Europe look good, based on their reception in Japan. Broker Albert E Sharp says the shares are a buy.

A TERRIBLE week for food stores. Bad news from Sainsbury at its interim results, was compounded by a profits decline at bargain chain Kwik-Save. Both shares were stock market darlings, but their misfortune has dragged the sector down considerably. The FT-SE 350 food retailers index has underperformed the FT-SE 100 index by almost 10 per cent over the last month. However, there are rays of light. While the market as a whole has begun to suffer, Tesco still looks to have a commanding position. But as the quest for growth gets ever tougher, one likely outcome will be further consolidation. Among the second-line groups that stand out on this reasoning is William Morrison (143p). Although a perennial bid candidate, some sort of merger makes sense. Asda is one candidate to swallow its smaller rival.

RANSOMES, (60p) the grass machinery manufacturer has renegotiated its bank borrowings at finer terms. It will now pay 1.5 per cent over base, down from a range of 1.75 per cent to 2.25 per cent. In conjunction with this, it has also won an exclusive contract to supply the Pebble Beach golf courses and resorts business in the US with turf maintenance equipment. Preliminary results next week should show pre-tax profits at pounds 8.8m, up from pounds 6.1m for the nine months to 30 September, 1994 (the group changed its year-end from December to September). With most of the recovery in the business reflected in the price, now is probably a good time to take profits.

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