Writing on the wall for Athena

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The Independent Online
ATHENA, the poster shops chain, could be sold or slimmed down in the wake of the losses reported last week by its parent Pentos and the ousting of Terry Maher, the founding Pentos chairman and chief executive, writes Patrick Hosking.

Non-executive directors of Pentos, led by its deputy chairman Sir Kit McMahon, are down to a shortlist of two or three for a new chief executive - all thought to be retailers.

The group is also close to selling its office furniture arm, but the pounds 20m or more which is expected to be raised may not be enough to prevent the need for a cash-raising exercise at the heavily-borrowed group.

Athena, which sells prints and posters through company-owned and franchised shops, is regarded as the biggest problem. It has been badly hit by the depressed housing market and the shrinking numbers of 15- to 25-year-olds. Margins at the chain collapsed when it slashed prices to try to sell slow-moving stock.

Last week, Pentos disappointed shareholders by announcing a pounds 400,000 pre-tax loss for the first half, passing the dividend and warning that profits in the full year would fall significantly.