Wembley pays the penalty of depressed spending

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The Independent Online
PROLONGED recession has hit Wembley, the leisure group. It has warned that current profit forecasts for the year to 31 December are too optimistic.

The company said three factors combined to darken the group's prospects. Average spending per head in the entertainment complexes continued to drift lower, there was no improvement in betting and bookings for arena events were 15 per cent down.

Wembley is best known for operating the English national football stadium and using it as a venue for pop concerts.

Sir Brian Wolfson, chairman, said: 'It is too early to say what the group's pre-tax results for the six months ended 31 December will be, but they are likely to be worse than the pounds 2.5m profit achieved in the first half.'

Alex McCrindle, a director, said: 'In 1992 we assumed the recession was not going to get any worse, but in fact the economic climate continued to decline.'

In 1991 Wembley dropped pounds 8m into the red and expectations were that it would recover strongly. Mr McCrindle said Wembley was unlikely to lose money in the second half but progress from the first half profit of pounds 2.5m will be limited. The shares fell 2.5p to 17.5p.

The company's comments on trading came with news that it has swapped its holding in a 50-50 ticketing joint venture with Expedier for an 18 per cent stake in a new company that will run the ticketing operation. Wembley also receives pounds 1m.

Expedier, which will change its name to The Ticketing Group and fold into the former joint venture, raised pounds 4.5m in a placing of new shares to fund the project.

Expedier reported a pre-tax loss of pounds 573,000, up from a pounds 1.42m loss last time. Loss per share was 0.6p (3.2p). There is no dividend.

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