US discounting hammers Hi-Tec

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Aggressive discounting by leading US brands such as Nike and Reebok helped to send Hi- Tec Sports, the footwear and clothing group, crashing to pre-tax losses of pounds 2.8m for the six months to 31 July.

The company also announced the resignation of its marketing director, Paul Possamai, following disagreements about the direction of the European operations. They recorded a loss of pounds 1.4m for the half-year, against a loss of pounds 100,000 in 1991.

The interim dividend was cut to 1p from 1.65p. The shares fell 7p to close at 41p, against a high of 207p this year.

The company raised pounds 10.3m in a rights issue in January at 150p a share.

Frank van Wezel, chairman and the major shareholder, said he believed the company would return to profitability in the second half.

Group turnover slumped almost a third to pounds 45.9m. Sales in the UK declined to 54 per cent of their level in the first half of 1991. The company blamed the dumping of stock by the big US players, the fall in consumer spending and destocking by retailers.

But Ashley Reynolds, group services director, said the autumn buying season had been encouraging.

'We have revamped our product range to make it sharper and more focused, and our orders are up on last year.'

He added that the big stock overhang that plagued the market was reaching its end. 'We are pretty sure we have seen the greater part of the stock problem,' he said.

On the aggressive discounting by US competitors, he felt that the weaker pound made it less easy for them to continue dumping surplus stock in the UK.

He added that the company had made strenuous attempts to reduce overheads, resulting in a workforce shrunk by 30 people to 115.

Mr van Wezel said trading conditions in the UK underlined the importance of the international expansion made by Hi-Tec.

The company was bullish about the progress of its US arm, where turnover increased 20 per cent, but profits from their operation were flat.