Universe Group PLC
15 November 2002
UNIVERSE GROUP PLC ('UNIVERSE' OR THE 'COMPANY')
15 NOVEMBER 2002
This time last year Universe announced the degree to which its Master Change
business experienced a reduction in trading in Paris consequent upon the
terrorist attacks of 11th September 2001. Regular updates have been given over
the past twelve months and as we move into our final two months of trading the
Board considers it appropriate to give an update on all three group businesses,
HTEC, Master Change and First Remit.
Our largest business is HTEC. Our high hopes for the petrol retailer business
are being realised and there is a slow but steady return of Contract Electronic
Manufacturing work. Our orders indicate a good carry-over into the early part
of next year. Our product development efforts continue and HydraPOS is a big
success this year. Our current developments include:
- An on-line host for petrol retailer loyalty schemes
- Video switch for information systems
- Automatic Number Plate Recognition for forecourts
- Chip and PIN, principally for petrol retailers
The biggest loyalty scheme in the UK, Nectar, was launched a month ago. We are
pleased with the success of Nectar where we are responsible for handling the
data emanating from the filling station network of one of its participants.
US tourists are not returning to Paris in their previous numbers. Unofficial
estimates are that there have been one million fewer visits to Paris by
Americans. As a result and in spite of the revenue from new shop openings,
Master Change will finish the year with profits which are significantly below
last year's. Masterchange as a whole is however still operating profitably. In
the light of the continuing impact of fears arising from terrorism and the war
on terrorism we must anticipate that these quieter trading conditions for Master
Change will continue for the foreseeable future.
This initiative is developing well. On 20th September 2002 we announced a
further twenty country openings. In the ensuing six weeks First Remit has
contracted to open a further five countries (Croatia, Burundi, Ghana, Bangladesh
and Ireland) which will bring our total to thirty four countries, including our
'send' countries, UK, Belgium, UAE and Ireland.
Our send agents continue to grow in number and quality and our transaction
numbers increase month by month at a satisfactory rate. We are still operating
below break even but on the basis that the current growth rate continues we will
achieve operating profits next year.
We expect a strong finish to the current year, especially at HTEC. Our first
half generated group pre-tax profits of £232,000. This level of profitability
was exceeded in the third quarter of the year. Having regard to the factors
applying in the year, a strong result - but not as strong as last year - will be
delivered for the year as a whole.
Commenting, Ray Mackie, CEO of Universe Group said:
'HTEC has managed it's way through a challenging trading period and with a
strengthening order book is showing strong second half improvement, while the
team at Master Change has done an excellent job in remaining profitable during
a very bleak trading period for tourism in Europe. In First Remit we have the
makings of a large and profitable new business.'
For Further Information:
Universe Group plc
Ray Mackie, Group Chief Executive 020 7486 9074
Teather & Greenwood Limited
David Galan 020 7426 9000
This information is provided by RNS
The company news service from the London Stock Exchange