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Universe Grp. (UNG)

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Friday 05 September, 2003

Universe Grp.

Interim Results

Universe Group PLC
05 September 2003

                               UNIVERSE GROUP PLC

                           UNAUDITED INTERIM RESULTS
                     FOR THE SIX MONTHS ENDED 30 JUNE 2003

Universe Group plc, the retail and information systems company, is pleased to
announce its Unaudited Interim Results for the six months to 30 June 2003.

Main features:

•       Turnover of £19.0 million (2002:  £17.3 million)

•       Operating profit of £535,000 (2002:  £460,000)

•       Adjusted earnings per share 0.62p (2002:  0.55p)

•       Profit before tax £206,000 (2002:  £232,000)

•       Interim dividend of 0.54p (2002:  0.78p)

Commenting, Ray Mackie, Group Chief Executive of Universe Group said:

'In the first half of the year we achieved further progress in HTEC and in the
currency division at First Remit; but in common with tourist operators in Paris,
we suffered at Master Change.  Overall, group operating profits before
exceptional items rose to £535,000 compared to £460,000 in the first half of
last year, an increase of 16%.

HTEC is making headway with its new products, which will accommodate chip and
PIN and its on-line service.  We are confident that First Remit will continue to
make progress in the second half.  Master Change, which experienced extremely
poor conditions in the period, is showing signs of recovery towards its 2002
levels of activity but remains vulnerable to any worsening of the international
situation.  As things currently stand, we are expecting a satisfactory close to
2003 and hopeful that 2004 will be a year of real progress.'

For Further Information:

Universe Group plc
Ray Mackie, Group Chief Executive          023 8068 9510

Charles Stanley & Co Limited
Russell Cook                               020 7953 2000

Interim Statement

In the first half of the year we achieved further progress in HTEC and in the
currency division at First Remit; but in common with tourist operators in Paris,
we suffered at Master Change. Overall, group operating profits before
exceptional items rose to £535,000 compared to £460,000 in the first half of
last year, an increase of 16%.

Results and dividends

Our sales were £19.0 million against £17.3 million for the comparable period
last year. On this figure before tax and after exceptional charges and increased
financing charges, we earned £206,000 compared with £232,000 last year. Our
earnings per share, adjusted for exceptionals, are 0.62 pence, an increase on
the 0.55 pence earned in the first 6 months of last year.

The Board has declared an interim dividend of 0.54 pence per ordinary share. In
distributing the same cash amount as last year, which is more than our earnings
in the first half of the year, the board is expressing its confidence in a
satisfactory result for the year as a whole. We will not have a scrip
alternative at this interim stage.

HTEC

Retail Information Systems

HTEC had an excellent half-year. We increased our profits and finalised a number
of new products for rolling out in the second half. These include NoQ, a point
of sale system running on DigiPos for the independent petrol dealer market. This
is a standardised derivative of the successful HydraPOS system. It also includes
HydraOPT which is a next-generation outdoor payment terminal for pay-at-pump.

In Data Services we have completed developments and taken our first orders for
both HTEC On-line Loyalty using HTEC's proprietary on-line protocol and HTEC
Virtual Back Office (VBO), a new concept in monitoring and controlling the
trading results of a retail estate (petrol forecourts and other retail outlets)
flexibly and from remote locations.

Our orders and enquiries for coming months are looking quite healthy in all our
business areas including CEM (Contract Electronic Manufacturing). We have become
an important supplier to McMurdo Ltd, a subsidiary of Chemring Group plc, for a
key part of their marine transponder business. Other developments of note at
HTEC include orders for smart loyalty systems in the Benelux countries, Galaxy's
in Spain and Portugal and a Pictor replacement for use in MacDonalds in Spain.
We are a party to the much publicised credit card PINpad trials currently being
undertaken in Northampton as a part of our chip and PIN development. Last but
not least, at HTEC, we achieved BS9001-2000 approval for our combined
production, supply and service operations.

A substantial amount of development cost is included in fixed assets in our
balance sheet. This reflects our determination to seize and capitalise on
industry developments with new products for the future. Chip and PIN is changing
many of our products and represents a significant opportunity for us.

Currency Exchange

Currency Exchange Division is composed of two activities, Master Change and
First Remit. They share central services.

Master Change operates fourteen bureaux de change in Paris, two elsewhere in
France, and an additional nine bureaux in Austria, Belgium and London. All our
bureaux are affected by the continuing downturn in tourism as a consequence of
the fragile international situation. The first half-year is the low season for
our bureaux and in this period the shops broke even before central costs. We
regard this as a reasonable result given the background of war with Iraq and
SARS, which led to further sharp reductions in American and Japanese tourist
numbers. The result of changed tourist patterns is that Sterling is now our most
important currency in the Paris bureaux. We did not open any new bureaux in the
period and, indeed, closed one bureau in the South of France. We are in the
process of closing one bureau in Austria. We will continue to keep our shop
portfolio under review.

First Remit, our International Money Transfer operation, incurred a reduced
trading loss in the six-month period. There was, of course, an additional cash
cost in opening in a further twelve countries. At the end of the period we
commenced 'Send' operations in Canada, where we have had a slow start as a
result of the SARS outbreak in Toronto and the more recent power failures. Money
held in bank deposits in our 'send and receive' countries at 30 June totalled
£824,000 (Year end 2002 - £312,000). Our total investment to date in First Remit
has amounted to £3.4 million including losses of £500,000 recognised in the past
two years.

We now operate a network of 60 countries. Growth in transactions continues month
on month and our attention is turned toward achieving profitability.

Cash Resources

During the half year we increased our bank facilities and placed 6.4 million
shares with two major UK institutional investors raising a total of £1,498,500
before fees and expenses.

Board Changes

Keith Buchanan who joined the Board as a non-executive director at the AGM in
2002 took up post as Finance Director in October 2002. He has once again become
a non-executive director following our relocation to Southampton. Eddie Paul who
has been a member of the Board since January 2000 has taken over the role of
Finance Director. These changes take effect today.

Prospects

HTEC is making headway with its new products, which will accommodate chip and
PIN and its online service. We are confident that First Remit will continue to
make progress in the second half. Master Change, which experienced extremely
poor conditions in the period, is showing signs of recovery towards its 2002
levels of activity but remains vulnerable to any worsening of the international
situation. As things currently stand, we are expecting a satisfactory close to
2003 and hopeful that 2004 will be a year of real progress.

George Welham                      Ray Mackie
Chairman                           Group Chief Executive


5 September 2003


Consolidated Profit & Loss Account (unaudited)
for the six months ended 30 June 2003

                                                     Six months         Six months           Year to
                                                       to June            to June           December
                                                        2003               2002               2002
                                                        £'000              £'000              £'000

Turnover                                                   18,967             17,306             34,487

Operating profit
            Operating profit                                  535                460              1,565
            Operational exceptional items                    (42)                  -              (238)

Profit on ordinary activities before interest and             493                460              1,327
taxation

            Interest payable and similar charges            (287)              (228)              (438)

Profit on ordinary activities before taxation                 206                232                889

            Tax on ordinary                                  (22)               (70)               (77)
            activities

Profit for the financial period                               184                162                812

            Dividends payable - interim / full year         (232)              (232)              (648)

Result for the financial period                              (48)               (70)                164

Profit and Loss account at 1 January                        7,226              6,958              6,958

Exchange differences                                          110                250                104

Profit and Loss account at period end                       7,288              7,138              7,226


Earnings per share
            Basic and Diluted                                0.50               0.55               2.54

            Basic before exceptional                         0.62               0.55               3.06
            items





Consolidated balance sheet (unaudited)
as at 30 June 2003

                                                  30 June           30 June        31 December
                                                   2003              2002              2002
                                                   £'000             £'000            £'000

Fixed assets

         Intangible assets                            23,222            21,961            22,969
         Tangible assets                               6,285             6,689             6,546

                                                      29,507            28,650            29,515

Current assets

         Stocks                                        2,543             2,066             2,208
         Bureaux floats                                  325               599               403
         Debtors                                       3,765             2,161             3,176
         Cash at bank and bank deposits                  893               416               396
                                                       7,526             5,242             6,183
Creditors
         Amounts falling due within one year         (8,578)           (7,662)           (8,529)

Net current liabilities                              (1,052)           (2,420)           (2,346)


Total assets less current liabilities                 28,455            26,230            27,169

Creditors
         Amounts falling due after more than         (2,991)           (3,631)           (3,251)
         one year
Net assets                                            25,464            22,599            23,918


Capital and reserves

         Called up share capital                       2,221             1,484             1,781
         Share premium account                         6,763             4,783             5,717
         Revaluation reserves                            585               585               585
         Other reserves                                8,605             8,605             8,605
         Profit and loss account                       7,288             7,138             7,226

Equity shareholders' funds                            25,462            22,595            23,914

Equity minority interest                                   2                 4                 4

Capital employed                                      25,464            22,599            23,918







Consolidated cash flow statement (unaudited)
for the six months ended 30 June 2003
                                                           Six months   Six months     Year to
                                                           to June      to June       December
                                                            2003         2002           2002
                                                            £'000        £'000          £'000

Operating profit                                                493          460           1,327
Depreciation and amortisation                                   569          389             648
(Increase)/decrease in stocks and work in progress            (257)          265             434
(Increase)/decrease in debtors                                (831)          270           (478)
Increase/(decrease) in creditors                                  7        (568)           (548)

Net cash (outflow)/inflow from operating activities            (19)          816           1,383

Returns from investments and servicing of finance
            Interest paid                                     (287)        (294)           (427)

Net cash outflow from returns on
investments and servicing of finance                          (287)        (294)           (427)

Taxation                                                        258        (344)           (395)

Capital expenditure - financial investment
            Purchase of tangible fixed assets                  (85)        (284)            (70)
            Purchase of intangible fixed assets               (466)        (402)         (1,473)
            Sale of tangible and intangible fixed assets        207            -               -

Net cash outflow from capital
expenditure and financial investment                          (344)        (686)         (1,543)

Equity dividends paid                                          (47)        (339)           (571)

Net cash outflow before management of
liquid resources and financing                                (439)        (847)         (1,553)

Financing
            Capital elements of lease payments                (176)         (97)           (237)
            Repayment of bank loans                           (400)        (460)           (960)
            Issue of shares net of expenses                   1,366          217           1,448

Net cash inflow / (outflow) from financing                      790        (340)             251

Increase / (decrease) in cash in period                         351      (1,187)         (1,302)

Reconciliation of movement in net debt

Increase/(Decrease) in cash in period                           351      (1,187)         (1,302)
Cash inflow from movement in debt and lease financing           576          557           1,197

Changes in net debt resulting from cash flows                   927        (630)           (105)
New finance leases                                            (107)         (97)           (411)

Movement in net debt                                            820        (727)           (516)
Net debt at 1 January                                       (6,996)      (6,480)         (6,480)
Net debt at 30 June                                         (6,176)      (7,207)         (6,996)





 Notes to Interim accounts for six months ended 30 June 2003

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 2002. Those accounts, upon
which the auditors issued a qualified 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 accounting
policies set out in the Group's statutory accounts for the year ended 31
December 2002 except for turnover where ASB Amendment for FRS5 provides new
rules for the recognition of sales of First Remit.

3. The interim report will be circulated to all shareholders and copies will be
available from the Company's head & registered office: Southampton International
Park, Southampton,SO18 2RX.

4. The board has declared an interim dividend of 0.54 pence per 5 pence ordinary
share (2002 : 0.78 pence per 5 pence share) payable on 6 January 2004 to all
shareholders on the register on 5 December 2003.

5. The earnings per share is calculated by reference to the results and the
weighted average of 36,640,109 shares in issue during the period.  The number of
shares in issue at 30 June 2003 was 42,023,109.

6. The tax charge, after an adjustment for a prior period, is 11% of profits and
is the estimated effective rate for the year.



                      This information is provided by RNS
            The company news service from the London Stock Exchange