Reuters splits shares after pounds 440m profit: Information company moves to improve liquidity on heels of growing sales

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REUTERS Holdings, which yesterday pleased the market with pre-tax profits for 1993 up 15 per cent at pounds 440m, is splitting its shares to improve liquidity. The information company is giving shareholders four shares for each existing share.

The good figures and the promise of 'double-digit earnings growth without reliance on price increases' held out by Peter Job, Reuters' chief executive, pushed the share price up 79p to 1,981p. Dealers said there had been little trading and welcomed the share split.

Mr Job said 1993 growth had been achieved without price increases and promised that this year, for the third year running, Reuters would hold its prices.

The gradual improvement seen in the first half of the year gathered pace in the second, he said.

'Conditions were good not only in our most developed markets such as the US and UK, but also in emerging markets like China, Latin America and East Europe. In our most sluggish major market, Japan, there were signs of improvement.'

Sales in the year to the end of December rose 20 per cent to pounds 1.874bn at actual exchange rates, although they were flattered by currency effects. Excluding currencies, growth was 8 per cent. Operating profit before interest was up 20 per cent to pounds 380m and the dividend of 19.8p puts the total dividend up 23 per cent at 26p.

The strong profits performance came despite an increase in capital expenditure and a fall in interest earned on the company's cash pile.

Capital expenditure increased by a third to pounds 268m, partly influenced by a stronger dollar. Expenditure on subscriber equipment rose 40 per cent to pounds 143m, reflecting good growth conditions and continuing network renewal.

Instinet, Reuters' equity trading service, did well and Mr Job said some new products, such as the foreign exchange matching service, Dealing 2000 Phase 2, had also performed satisfactorily.

But he admitted that progress had been less successful with the Globex after-hours futures and options trading system.

Acquisitions, an increase in capital expenditure and a pounds 351m share repurchase of 25 million shares at the end of September meant year- end net cash fell to pounds 450m from pounds 710m a year earlier.

The share repurchase improved earnings slightly, although interest earned fell from pounds 66m to pounds 60m as the cash pile shrank. Shareholders will vote on the share split at an extraordinary general meeting on 12 April. Trading is expected to begin on 18 April.

As well as the ordinary share split, each American depositary share will count for six, rather than three, shares.

(Photograph omitted)

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