Troubled Photo-Me looks at going private

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The Independent Online
Photo-Me, the troubled photographic booth operator, yesterday admitted that it has considered taking the company private because of weakness in the share price and the management effort needed to deal with investors' concerns.

Shares in Photo-Me, which has struggled against competition and high capital investment costs, have underperformed the market by 82 per cent in the last five years. Directors own 57 per cent and have increased their stake from around 45 per cent since the start of the year.

Speaking after the group reported full-year profits to April down 8 per cent to pounds 11m after a pounds 3.2m currency hit, Peter Berridge, finance director, admitted that there were attractions in going private: "I would prefer we were private. We have to produce accounts and spend a lot of time talking to the City. As a private group we could think more long-term. But we have no active plans."

Mr Berridge said Photo-Me was looking at acquisitions and could spend up to pounds 50m. The company would consider a share buy-back if it could not find another use for the cash.

Photo-Me plans to launch 50 new "magic sticker" booths in Britain, producing 16 small photographs on sticky plastic. "The idea has been phenomenal in Japan. Japanese children are swapping and collecting pictures and even forming clubs. It could be very big here," Mr Berridge said.

The group's shares rose 2.5p to 119p after it reported encouraging underlying growth and reduced debt.