Proudfoot stumbles deeper into the red

Proudfoot, the troubled management consultancy formerly chaired by Lord Stevens, slumped deeper into the red last year as a result of the decision to sell the Crosby education tutorial business.

A pounds 37.8m loss on the disposal increased the group's losses from pounds 1.9m to pounds 33.2m for the year to December and the company warned there was little likelihood of an improvement this year. Even so, the shares gained 1.5p to 13.5p yesterday.

Malcolm Hughes, chief executive, said that, after several difficult years, "we continue the process of rebuilding the business to reclaim our position as one of the world's leading consulting organisations". There would be no dividend payments until the group's financial position stabilised.

Turnover slid from pounds 81.2m to pounds 56.6m. More than a third of the drop in consulting revenues resulted from the closure of local operations in South- east Asia, Mexico and Spain. But Mr Hughes said "a significant proportion" of the balance arose from disappointing performances in the US and Germany, which are normally higher fee and higher-margin markets.

Operating margins were raised to 10 per cent last year, but management attention will be directed towards increasing them towards 15 per cent.