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Smaller Companies: Utilitec on way back

Utilitec has had more name changes than Elizabeth Taylor has had husbands. Well, that's an exaggeration, but not by much. The company is now on its fourth name, having started life as the British Kidney Patient Association Investment Trust way back in 1982.

Shares in their latest guise began trading a little over a year ago at just under 80p. Since then, however, it has been all downhill, and the shares are now bumping along at just above 40p.

The company sells services to the utilities sector, with one of its most important divisions employed in detecting water leaks.

While there have been ups and downs, three core businesses have been assembled, all of them with healthy order books. Everything is now looked after by a revamped board.

The purchase of Kenton, which specialises in contracting engineering to the water and gas utilities, brought short-term problems: the new acquisition suffered a bad result, pushing the group into heavy losses for the year to 30 April of pounds 1.78m.

Looking forward, however, the company has a good chance to make progress, and should return to profits next year. The shares could well be undervalued, and at 45p they are an interesting speculative buy.

richard phillips