Pentos slashes its payout to 1.5p

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The Independent Online
PENTOS, the aggressive bookshops group, has put a partial freeze on capital investment and plans to sell its furniture division in an attempt to crack down on its mushrooming borrowings, writes Patrick Hosking.

It reported a collapse in pre-tax profits from pounds 15.2m in 1991 to pounds 4m in 1992, as foreshadowed in its grim profits warning in December. The final dividend was cut from 2.05p to 0.8p, making a 1.5p total.

Only the Dillons bookshops chain would see new investment this year, it said. The Ryman and Athena chains would be expanded by franchising only. Capital expenditure will fall from pounds 16m to pounds 10m.

The furniture-making division would be sold 'when conditions are appropriate'. Last year it plunged to a loss of pounds 300,000 from profits in 1991 of pounds 3.7m. Once restored to profitability it might fetch its pounds 23m book value.

The depressed housing market hit the Athena poster shops chain. Excluding new stores, sales fell by 3 per cent.

Group debt rose from pounds 20m to pounds 44m, producing a surge in the interest bill from pounds 3.9m to pounds 5.4m. Clive Gregory, finance director, predicted that debt would fall to pounds 40m by the end of 1993.