Pounds 35m write-off and passed dividend knock Wembley

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The Independent Online
WEMBLEY, the owner of the west London sports, pop and conference facilities, charges pounds 1 for a cup of tea outside the the main playing field. If it is struggling to make money despite this extortion, it is hard to see how it can ever pay its way.

Figures out yesterday were awful. Never mind the pounds 21.3m in extraordinary charges relating accounting reconcilation of goodwill written off on companies bought several years ago. You may also care to ignore pounds 13.4m of exceptional items - although not before you have registered shock and disbelief. Of the pounds 13m exceptional, pounds 5m are bank charges covering the rescheduling of Wembley's pounds 140m of debt. Another pounds 2m is reorganisation and redundancy costs and a third charge, of pounds 5m is an upfront hit on 5 years projected rent shortfall at an office.

Disregarding the one-offs Wembley made a meagre pounds 1.4m of taxable profit. Trading profits were pounds 15.8m up from pounds 15m but the improvement is hardly worthy of celebration, particularly considering the weight of interest payable on the pounds 140m debt.

Sir Brian Wolfson, chairman, promises assets disposals that may reduce the debt burden. But it is clearly unnerving that the companies bought under his leadership have been such poor performers. It is hard to understand why the yield off the Wembley complex is so bad - regardless of recession.

Shares fell 1p to 15p. A year ago they were at 50p and after peaking in 1987 at 148p. 4A consortium including former Wembley directors is considering a takeover bid or possibly a boardroom coup. That is the only real chance Wembley shareholders have of realising any return on their investment. Others should steer clear.

(Photograph omitted)