Spring Ram goes back into the black

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Spring Ram, the kitchens and bathrooms business being nursed back to health by Roger Regan, reported its first operating profit for three years yesterday as the company expressed cautious optimism about the future.

The half-year operating profit of pounds 100,000 on sales of pounds 116.5m is the first trading surplus since 1994, the year after Bill Rooney, the company's co-founder, left the group as part of a boardroom clear-out. Though each division reported an improved trading performance, the group still made a pre-tax loss of pounds 1.4m in the six months to 28 June due to interest charges on debts which were down to pounds 29m at the half year stage. This compares to a loss of pounds 20.4m in the first half last year.

Spring Ram is expected to break even at the pre-tax level in the full year and make a profit of pounds 5.5m-pounds 6m in 1998. The core businesses are in reasonable shape

Mr Regan is the father of Andrew Regan, the entrepreneur who led the abortive pounds 1.2bn break-up bid for the Co-Op earlier this year. However, he refused to comment on the failure of the bid, which ended in a welter of litigation. "He speaks for himself," Roger Regan said.

He said that in spite of competitive markets Spring Ram's sales improvement in recent weeks together with a strong order book indicated some modest improvement in underlying activities in the UK. However Mr Regan said export sales, which account for around 14 per cent of the business, continued to be affected by the strength of sterling.

The Stag furniture group remains the worst performing part of the Spring Ram portfolio. It reported halved operating losses of pounds 600,000 in the period. The Mr Regan has already said Stag is "non-core" he said the upturn in its fortunes meant it may be retained for while before a decision is made.

There was no half-year dividend. The shares were unchanged at 10.5p.