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Wembley embarks on buying spree

WEMBLEY, the British venue-management and leisure group, said it is on the prowl for acquisitions following its pounds 106m sale of Wembley stadium in March.

Unveiling a first-half rise in pre-tax profits of 2.3 per cent to pounds 13.4m, chairman Claes Hultman said yesterday that the firm would also press on with its share-buyback programme.

"We continue to investigate opportunities that will further enhance shareholder value both through organic expansion and ... acquisition of closely related businesses," Mr Hultman said.

Wembley, which has interests in greyhound racing and in United States gaming centres, said operating profit from continuing operations jumped 51.3 per cent to pounds 12.35m. Turnover was pounds 58.27m, down 2.86 per cent. An interim dividend of 3p per share was declared, up from 2p in the first half last year.

The results helped to boost Wembley shares, which rose 8.5 pence to 372p yesterday, their highest close since April.

Wembley stadium was sold to a consortium controlled by the Football Association last spring.

The proceeds and costs were subsumed into Wembley's 1998 accounts. In the six months to June, Wembley returned pounds 15.95m to shareholders. It has shareholder approval to buy an additional 6.2 million shares.

Wembley has about pounds 60m to fund its spending spree.