View from City Road: A tale of two media groups

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The Independent Online
SHARES in International Business Communications, the publishing and conference group, rose by 14 per cent in a single trading session yesterday. Unfortunately, this equates to a rise of only 1/2 p to 4p.

Like LWT Holdings, another company reporting yesterday, IBC was the subject of a bold financial experiment back in the more confident era of 1989. It is not hard to see which gamble paid off. In spite of the severity of the recession, LWT's shares have tripled in value, it has retained its television franchise at a knock-down price and its senior managers are set to become very rich next year. Yesterday LWT shares rose another 13p to 254p as it reported a 41 per cent rise in pre-tax profits to pounds 13.7m.

IBC, meanwhile, has seen its share price collapse from 150p and has twice had to be rescued by its banks, which now own the bulk of the company. Michael Bell, the author of the original adventure in corporate finance, is long gone.

His successors are making progress restoring IBC to financial health. IBC yesterday returned to pre-tax profits of pounds 572,000 after a pounds 2.4m loss - a result only possible because the company no longer has to pay interest on much of its pounds 75m or so of debt.

The group's operating profits rose 50 per cent to pounds 3.3m. Its conference division more than doubled its contribution to pounds 2.1m, helped by the elimination of lossmakers on the Continent and the end of the Gulf war.

Better still, IBC hopes to make its first repayment of debt capital at the end of this year. The likely repayment has slipped closer to pounds 1m than the pounds 1.5m that seemed possible earlier in the year.

An ideal speculative tip for IBC's Penny Share Guide, perhaps?