The Investment column: Some cheer from Park

Peter Johnson, Park Food's executive chairman and 70 per cent shareholder, has had a bad year. Last March his group was forced to make a profits warning after its promotional marketing operation, now called HSL, took its eye off the ball.

That was followed up by the failure of talks between HSL's founder, Stuart Marks, and Mr Johnson for a takeover of the whole group. Mr Marks and two of his fellow HSL directors were ousted in October, but Mr Johnson's troubles did not end there: Everton, which he also chairs and controls, has just racked up five defeats in a row.

Yesterday, however, he had something to cheer about, when Park reported a pre-tax deficit cut from pounds 5.71m to pounds 5.23m in the traditionally loss- making first half to September. The shares, down from a 1994 peak of 140p, ended 5.5p ahead at 55p.

The better sentiment had less to do with the figures and more with the prospects. Park's main business of Christmas hampers, paid for through weekly savings schemes, is about as seasonal as you can get, but the latest season was a good one. Sales of hampers and Park's high street gift vouchers operation recovered to over pounds 100m from pounds 94m the previous year, when the business was hit by the National Lottery. Cash deposits by customers peaked at a record pounds 80m in November and the omens are for more of the same. Based on orders taken since November, turnover is on course for another 6 to 7 per cent rise this Christmas.

Park's expertise is in wringing more from its existing 1 million-strong customer base than any growth in the market. The average weekly spend has gone up from pounds 4 to about pounds 5, but the spice should come from newer businesses. HSL, for which Park paid pounds 9.3m in 1993, has not proved a good buy, although it appears to be on the mend. Analysts expect full- year profits of pounds 1m, up from pounds 330,000 last time, but half the level of two years ago.

More risky is the venture into reconstituted flavoured chips, DJ Spuddles Gourmet Fries, to be launched next week when a new plant opens. Mr Johnson is confident that pounds 4m investment will contribute next year, but it is anyone's guess how much.

Granville Davies is looking for Park to produce same-again profits of pounds 9.5m this year, for a forward multiple of 14. High enough.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
newsAnother week, another dress controversy on the internet
Sport
Dave Mackay lifts the FA Cup in 1967 having skippered Spurs to victory
football
Life and Style
Scientist have developed a test which predicts whether you'll live for another ten years
health
Life and Style
Marie had fake ID, in the name of Johanna Koch, after she evaded capture by the Nazis in wartime Berlin
historyOne woman's secret life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Advisor is r...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

SThree: HR Benefits Manager

£40000 - £50000 per annum + pro rata: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn