Information  X 
Enter a valid email address

Universe Grp. (UNG)

  Print      Mail a friend

Friday 18 August, 2000

Universe Grp.

Interim Results

Universe Group PLC
18 August 2000

                        UNIVERSE GROUP PLC

Universe  Group  plc, the retail and information systems  company,
announces its unaudited interim results for the half year ended 30
June   2000.    During  the  period,  Universe  de-merged   Retail
Decisions, expanded Master Change in France and at HTEC  commenced
a recovery from the millennial embargoes of 1999.

Key Points

 -  Universe Group significantly restructured with the de-merger of
    Retail Decisions.

 -  26% increase in turnover of continuing operations £22.0 million
    (1999 £17.3 million as restated).

 -  15.7%  increase  in  operating profit before  amortisation  of
    goodwill from continuing operations £1,194,000 (1999 £1,032,000).

 -  Profits  before tax and after goodwill amortisation (£590,000)
    and exceptional items (£228,000) of £111,000.

 -  Headline earnings per share up 35% on pro-forma 1999  at  2.3p
    (1999 1.7p).

 -  Interim dividend increased by 10.6% at 0.73 pence per share.

 -  Recovery  commenced at HTEC with a significant improvement  on
    the second half of last year     

 -  Successful  first half at Master Change, now  expanded  to  24
    branches mainly in France.

Ray Mackie, Executive Chairman of Universe Group commented:

   'We  have  two strong businesses with experienced management
   teams.   They  have delivered a good result in  their  first
   six  months since our de-merger and we expect the  group  to
   continue  to perform well in the second half year.  Assuming
   our  expectations are met, we will propose  an  increase  in
   the   final  dividend  as  part  of  our  commitment  to   a
   progressive dividend policy.'


Universe Group plc                 020 7486 9074
Ray Mackie, Chairman

Buchanan Communications            020 7466 5000
Charles Ryland / Alison Cole

Teather and Greenwood              020 7426 9000
Russell Cook

Chairman's Statement

Universe Group plc has made considerable progress during  the  six
months  to  30 June 2000. We de-merged Retail Decisions,  expanded
Master Change in France and, at HTEC, commenced our recovery  from
the  millennial embargoes which held back the second half of  last
year. We also exchanged our Internet security development for cash
and shares in De La Rue.


There  are  of  course, two dividends. The first  is  the  special
distribution  of shares in Retail Decisions, where a  dividend  of
£415,000 by the Company was approved at an EGM, and the second  is
a  cash  dividend  of  0.73 pence of 5p ordinary  share,  a  10.6%
increase on the equivalent 0.66 pence paid last year on every five
1p ordinary shares before the share consolidation.


HTEC put in a first half that was, as expected, not as good as the
last year's first half, but which was a significant improvement on
the second half of last year. The equivalent turnover was achieved
but the operating profit was lower than in the first six months of
last year. This was because :-
-  There were significant startup costs in connection with the new
   maintenance contract with Retail Decisions.
-  The  continuing  high level of cost of developing  Gemini  for
   Electronic Funds Transfer. Although no income has been obtained in
   the  period  for  this  product, some  important  contracts  are
   currently in negotiation.

Like  many of our competitors, we experienced a slow start to 2000
in obtaining significant orders for computer-related equipment.

Master Change

Master Change had a most successful first half year and is proving
its  worth as a high growth business. The first half is a seasonal
low  period but because our new openings were concentrated in  the
early  part of the year, Master Change generated excellent profits
as  the summer season got underway.  I am pleased to announce that
on 9 August we opened our tenth branch in Paris situated at 40 Rue
de  Buci,  a  high  profile site adjacent to the  Boulevard  Saint
Germain.  We  have five more branches elsewhere in  France  and  a
further  nine in Austria, Belgium and England. We now account  for
the  turnover  of Master Change in preference to recognising  only
the gross profit as turnover.


Our  sales  from  continuing businesses increased to  £22.0m  from
£17.3m  (restated on a like-for-like basis) in the first  half  of
the  year.  Operating profit from our continuing  business  before
amortisation of goodwill was £1,194,000, a 15% improvement on  the
pro-forma equivalent figure for last year. After interest and tax,
earnings  on  an IIMR basis are 2.3 pence, a 35% increase  on  the
equivalent figure last time.  In addition to our operating results
we  incurred  non-operating exceptional costs principally  in  de-
merging the Retail Decisions business.  Our balance sheet position
has  changed  with  an  important reduction in  intangible  assets
principally  as a result of the de-merger. The net assets  leaving
the group on the de-merger were £2.9m.

Board Changes

We  have had two changes in our Board since the annual report  for
1999  was  circulated.  The  first was  the  retirement  of  Nigel
Whittaker  from  the  Board at the AGM  and  the  second  was  the
appointment  of  George Welham after the  AGM.   We  have  already
started  to  see  benefits  from  George's  contribution  and   my
colleagues   and  I  have expressed our thanks to  Nigel  for  the
contribution he made to the group.


We expect the group to continue to perform well in the second half
year  and assuming our expectations are fully met we will  propose
an  increase in the final dividend as part of our commitment to  a
progressive dividend policy.

Ray Mackie
Executive Chairman
18 August 2000

Consolidated Profit & Loss  Account  (unaudited)
For six months ended 30 June 2000
                                        Six        Six   Restated
                                     months     months    Year to 
                                    to June    to June   December
                                       2000       1999       1999
                                     £000's     £000's     £000's
Continuing operations (Note 2a)      21,963     17,311     35,523
Discontinued operations                   -      5,767     11,927 
                                    -------   --------    -------              
Total Turnover                       21,963     23,078     47,450
Operating Profit - analysed                               
Operating  profit  before                          
of goodwill - continuing              1,194      1,032      1,461
            - discontinued                -      1,278      2,718
                                     ------    -------    -------
Amortisation of goodwill              (590)     *(825)   *(1,597)
Total operating profit                  604      1,485      2,582
Exceptional items (Note 3)            (228)          -      (200)
Interest receivable and                  
similar income                           40         74        487
Interest payable and                  
similar charges                       (305)      (449)    (1,129)
Total profit on ordinary      
activities before taxation              111      7,110      1,740
Tax on ordinary activities            (280)      (541)      (987)
(Loss)/profit on ordinary             (169)        569        753
activities after tax
Dividends payable - interim           (207)      (179)      (454)
/ full year
Dividend in specie                 (2,905)          -          -
                                   --------   --------    -------
                                    (3,281)        390        299
Reversal of merger and               
acquisition reserves                  7,767          -          -
Movement on group profit and          
loss account                          4,486        390        299
Earnings per 1p ordinary share        Pence      Pence      Pence
Basic                                             0.43       0.56
Fully diluted                                     0.40       0.53
Basic  before amortisation                          
of goodwilland exceptional items                  1.04       1.90
Earnings per 5p ordinary share               Pro-forma       
Basic                                (0.62)     (0.83)        
Fully diluted                        (0.61)     (0.95)        
Basic  before amortisation                          
of goodwill and exceptional items      2.34       1.70        


*  Includes (£155,000) goodwill in the half year and (£310,000)
goodwill in the full year on discontinued operations.

Consolidated Balance Sheet (unaudited)
as at 30 June 2000

                                    Restated   Restated
                          30 June    30 June   December
                             2000       1999       1999
                           £000's     £000's     £000's
Fixed assets                                           
Intangible assets          22,990     30,266     29,586
Tangible assets             4,081      4,612      4,698
                          -------    -------   --------                        
                           27,071     34,878     34,284
Current assets                                         
Investments                   247          -          -
Stocks (Note 2b)            2,337      1,447      1,574
Debtors                     3,861      4,852      4,130
                          -------    -------   --------
Cash at bank and       
in hand                     7,159      9,125      9,972
Amounts falling due  
within one year           (6,831)    (9,012)    (9,079)
Net current assets            328        113        893
Amounts falling due                               
after more than
One year                  (5,131)    (9,814)   (10,023)
Net assets                 22,268     25,177     25,154
Capital and reserves                                   
Called  up  share
capital                     1,417      1,341      1,351
Share premium account       4,872      4,199      4,293
Other reserves              8,158     16,158     16,279

Profit  and  loss         -------    -------    -------
account                     7,821      3,583      3,335
Equity shareholders'funds  22,268     25,281     25,258

Less minority interest          -      (104)      (104)

                         --------   --------   --------                        
                           22,268     25,177     25,154
Consolidated Cash Flow Statement (unaudited)
for six months ended 30 June 2000
                                    Six       Six  
                                 months    months      Year to
                                to June   to June     December
                                   2000      1999         1999
                                 £000's    £000's       £000's
Net cash inflow from        
operating activities                 40     1,925        5,841

Returns from investments and                                  
servicing of finance
Interest received                    40        89          487
Interest paid                     (213)     (439)      (1,129)

Net cash (outflow) from returns                               
on investments and
servicing of finance              (173)     (350)        (642)

Corporation tax paid              (175)       (1)      (1,879)

Capital expenditure and financial                             
Purchase of  tangible fixed    
assets                          (1,053)   (1,750)      (2,827)
Purchase of intangible fixed      
assets                             (13)      (20)         (10)
Sale of tangible and        
intangible fixed assets             360        15            1

Net cash  (outflow) from capital                              
Expenditure and financial             
investments                       (706)   (1,755)      (2,836)
Acquisitions and disposals                                    
Purchase of subsidiary               -       (97)            -
Costs of de-merger                (428)         -            -
Cash transfer on de-merger        2,147         -            -

Net cash inflow/(outflow)from                                 
acquisitions and disposals        1,719      (97)            -
Equity dividends paid             (273)     (231)        (410)
Net cash inflow/(outflow)  
before financing                    432     (509)           74

Capital elements of lease          (30)      (54)        (100)
New bank loans                    6,200     2,014            -
Repayment of bank loans         (9,797)   (4,383)      (3,413)
Other Loans                        (72)     (413)            -
Issue of shares net of             
expenses                            271       122          226
                               --------  --------     --------
Net cash (outflow) /inflow     
from financing                  (3,428)   (2,714)      (3,287)
                               --------  --------     --------
(Decrease) in cash in period    (2,996)   (3,223)      (3,213)

Reconciliation of Movement                             
in Net Debt
Decrease as above               (2,996)                   
Cash inflow from movements        3,772                   
of loans
Net debt at 31 December 1999    (7,670) 
Net debt at 30 June 2000        (6,894) 


1  Publication of non-statutory accounts
   The financial information contained in this interim statement
   does not constitute accounts as defined by Section 240 of the
   Companies Act 1985.  The financial information for the full
   preceding year is based on the statutory accounts for the
   financial year ended 31 December 1999.  Those accounts, upon
   which the auditors issued an unqualified opinion, have been
   delivered to the Registrar of Companies.

2  Basis of preparation of interim financial information
   The interim financial information has been prepared on the
   basis of the accounting policies set out in the Group's
   statutory accounts for the year ended 31 December 1999, except
   as follows:

2a)the turnover for the 6 months ended 30 June 1999 and year ended
   31 December 1999 has been restated to show sales in Master
   Change on a gross transaction basis rather than a commission
   earned basis.  The turnover for the six months to June 1999 is
   on a gross transaction basis and due to this change in
   accounting procedure at Master Change group turnover has
   increased from £11,207,000 to £17,311,000 and in the full year 
   from £19,423,000 to £35,523,000.

2b)The balance sheets at June 1999 and December 1999 have  been
   restated  to  show Master Change's bureau cash floats  as  stock
   rather  than  cash.  The amounts re-classified are  at  30  June
   1999 £331,000, at 31 December 1999 £780,000.

3  The exceptional items represent the additional costs of the
   de-merger, over the provision made last year.

4  The  interim  report will be circulated to all shareholders
   and  copies  will be available from the Company's  head  office:
   55 Queen Anne Street, London W1M 9FA.

5  The board has declared an interim dividend of 0.73 pence per  5p
   ordinary share (1999: 0.132 pence per 1 pence share) payable  on
   13  October  2000  to  all shareholders on  record  date  of  22
   September 2000.