Park doubles payout

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SHARES IN Park Food Group shot up 8p to an all-time high of 226p after the Merseyside-based Christmas hamper company doubled its interim dividend to 2p, writes John Murray.

Peter Johnson, chairman, said the group was on course for a record year, despite reporting the usual half-time loss because of the seasonal nature of the company's business.

He held out the prospect of a bigger final dividend. Park no longer had to invest in two discontinued businesses, and this would allow dividend cover to fall from two and a half times to two times.

The group is concentrating on its core business of supplying Christmas hampers by mail order to customers who pay throughout the year in weekly instalments, having disposed of two diversifications at the end of 1991.

Pre-tax losses were lower at pounds 3.7m ( pounds 4.4m) for the six months to 30 September. Both turnover and customer spend in the continuing businesses would show healthy increases over 1991/2.

Full-year profits last time were pounds 6.9m before tax. Brokers forecast pounds 8- pounds 9m for this year.