The Investment Column: Holidaybreak

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WHILE HOLIDAY giants such as Thomson Travel and Airtours have seen their shares dwindle during 1999 amid profits warnings and failed bid battles, there's been some progress at the bottom end of the sector. Holidaybreak, which rents out tents and mobile homes, has made happy campers of its investors this year, who have seen the shares more than double.

Speculation that Airtours would launch a bid for the tiddly company, having failed in its battle for First Choice, sent the shares up 40p last year. However, yesterday's full-year results lent firmer support to the valuation. However, the shares fell back by only 10p to 354p on the lack of news of a bid.

A strong camping season following Holidaybreak's acquisition of Keycamp helped to lift earnings per share 10 per cent. Synergy benefits from the deal look set to total pounds 1m. Meanwhile, the group's hotel breaks enjoyed some recovery.

While Angus Crichton-Miller, the chairman, is looking for further deals to diversify and expand the group, the shares continue to be supported by much speculation. On analysts' forecasts of pounds 19.5m pre-tax profits and earnings per share of 33.1p this year, the shares are looking fully valued.