View from City Road: Sugar may be running out of ideas

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The Independent Online
Poor Alan Sugar. Every time he tries to talk down his share price, which he does regularly, everyone laughs and says: 'Come off it. You would say that, wouldn't you?'

Eighteen months ago Mr Sugar tried and failed to take Amstrad private. Ever since he has been trying to show that the 30p a share he offered was a fair and reasonable price which shareholders were foolish to shun.

A fifth profits warning in two years, an acquisition that smacks of desperation and a sagging value of 31.75p a share are beginning to give credence to his persistently gloomy prognosis.

The decision to move into direct sales, through yesterday's purchase of the computer manufacturer Viglen, makes sense in the light of the company's continuing inability to make any profits at all through traditional retail channels - analysts expect no more than break-even this year.

Buying pounds 9m of profits for an initial pounds 30m is certainly a better use of Amstrad's cash pile than leaving it in the bank. That's about the best that can be said for it, however.

Initial scepticism about Mr Sugar's motives for constantly talking down the share price is fast giving way to a grudging acceptance that he really can't think of what to do next.