Wace in red as chairman quits

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The Independent Online
Wace, the specialist printing and imaging group, yesterday reported its second loss in four years and said Fran ten Bos was quitting as chairman.

The pounds 2m loss follows three profit warnings last year which saw Wace's share price collapse from a peak of 279p to 57p. Last night the shares closed unchanged at 91.5p, valuing the company at pounds 72m

Analysts said the results were in line with a warning from chief executive Trevor Grice in October that the costs of a big restructuring programme would plunge Wace into the red.

Wace, which made profits of pounds 20.5m in 1995, took an exceptional charge of pounds 13.9m last year to cover the cost of exiting paper-based commodity printing to focus on higher-margin electronic publishing and digital media.

A commercial print plant in Glasgow was shut, imaging activities in Paris and Chicago have both been moved on to fewer sites and printing businesses in Holland and America are up for sale.

"The only thing I've done at Wace is to make it smaller," said Mr Grice, who became chief executive in 1993. "Now for the first time I feel comfortable talking about growth and margins."

But concerns about a sudden downturn in the US imaging market caused analysts to lower their forecasts.

Louise Barton at Henderson Crosthwaite said her profit forecast would be cut from pounds 13m to between pounds 5m and pounds 10m. "I think Mr Grice has learned some lessons but the damage in the US has already been done," she said.

Wace said Mr ten Bos, a former Scottish rugby international, had "expressed a wish to step down but will continue in office until a new chairman is found." He has been chairman of Wace for seven years.

A Department of Trade and Industry inquiry continues into allegations of insider dealing and money laundering against Wace under Mr Grice's predecessor, John Clegg.