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Universe Grp. (UNG)

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Friday 10 September, 2004

Universe Grp.

Interim Results

Universe Group PLC
10 September 2004

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE       Friday, 10 September 2004

                               UNIVERSE GROUP PLC

                           UNAUDITED INTERIM RESULTS

                     FOR THE SIX MONTHS ENDED 30 JUNE 2004

Universe Group plc ('Universe' or the 'Company'), the retail and information
systems company, is pleased to announce its Interim Results for the six months
ended 30 June 2004.

Main features:

•   Turnover of £20.3 million (2003:  £19.0 million)

•   Operating profit before development costs write-off, exceptional items
    and amortisation of development costs of £534,000 (2003:  £535,000)

•   Loss before tax £224,000 (2003:  profit of £206,000)

•   Adjusted earnings per share 0.54p (2003:  0.62p)

•   First Remit development costs, £231,000 written off

•   Interim dividend of 0.25p (2003:  0.54p)

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

'HTEC continues to benefit from our customers' preparations for the roll out of
Chip and PIN technology.  We have some very significant orders and contracts
with ASDA, Morrisons and PayPoint although our development cycles mean that the
full benefit of these contracts will not begin to flow through until the second
half.  Currency Division incurred smaller losses than last year as we
consolidated our positions in both Master Change and First Remit.

We expect a strong second half at HTEC and are seeking to ensure continued
improvement in trading at Currency Division arising from the summer season at
Master Change and modest growth at First Remit.'

For Further Information:

Universe Group plc
Ray Mackie, Group Chief Executive  020 7739 8200 (today only)
02380 689510 (thereafter)

Charles Stanley & Co Limited
Russell Cook 020 7739 8200


Our sales were £20.3 million against £19.0 million for the comparable period
last year. In the first half we achieved an operating profit, before exceptional
items and before First Remit development costs, which was level with that
achieved last year. As expected, HTEC did not match last year's result but did
well in the context of continuing preparations for rolling out Chip and PIN
technology in our payment systems. Currency division incurred smaller operating
losses than last year as we consolidated our positions in both Master Change and
First Remit. Overall, group operating profits before exceptional items were
£534,000 compared to £535,000 in the first half of last year.

We incurred a loss before tax of £224,000 after exceptional charges of £266,000
and First Remit development costs of £231,000 compared with a profit of £206,000
last year when no development costs were written off until the year end. Our
earnings per share, adjusted for exceptionals, development costs and
amortisation of development loan issue costs are 0.54 pence compared to 0.62
pence last year. This is based on adjusted earnings of £314,000 (2003 -


HTEC had a relatively quiet first half from a delivered sales perspective while
we and our major customers prepared for the move to Chip and PIN. Nevertheless,
we have some very significant orders and contracts with ASDA, Morrisons and
PayPoint but our development cycles meant that only a limited amount could be
delivered in the first half year. Our order position indicates that HTEC will
have a very busy second half to this year and a good start point to 2005.

Taking each of our main HTEC product areas in turn the picture for our future
growth is a good one:


The Gemini EFT Terminal has now been specified by, and is in use with, two major
oil companies and a major independent payment service provider. Gemini
derivatives are also in use with a third oil company and other customers as a
loyalty terminal. The Gemini Intelligent PINpad has been developed for rolling
out at the end of this year once final approvals have been obtained.


This Point of Sale System has proved itself as a petrol forecourt industry
leader and is being updated to accommodate industry standard PINpads. The system
is currently being rolled out across the petrol forecourts of two of the major
supermarket groups.

Hydra OPT

Our petrol outdoor payment terminal is a major product for the future. The
system is a crossover between Gemini and HydraPOS technology and it has received
good initial orders prior to Chip and PIN approvals.


The service component of our business continues to grow with each generation of
devices put into the field by HTEC. In addition our data-handling is expanding
with our on-line loyalty business making a positive contribution from orders in
UK and Netherlands.


There are two activities in this Division. These are bureaux de change and
international money transfer trading as Master Change and First Remit

We have been reducing the Master Change shop estate to a core of good
performers. In the period we closed Salzburg in Austria, Rue de la Harpe and
Boulevard St Germain in Paris, and Antibes in the South of France. After these
closures we now trade from sixteen shops of which eleven are in Paris. We have
further reductions to make but those already made, and a small upturn in tourist
numbers, has enabled Master Change to break even in the traditionally quieter
first half.

First Remit is still at an early stage in its life. In my year end review I said
we would have a period of consolidation. We have improved our prices and margins
at the expense of volume growth but even so value sent at £8.2 million was
double that sent in the equivalent period of last year. Since the turn of the
year we have opened in Cyprus and Zimbabwe and have a new banking partner in


Having regard to an interim dividend this year coming from reserves we are
adopting a more prudent approach. Accordingly our interim dividend will be
reduced to 0.25 pence per share and will cost £153,000. Payment will be on 6
January 2005 and a scrip alternative will be offered.


George Welham has retired from the Board and I have taken over the Chairmanship.
George gave us a good deal of help and advice during his time as a Board member
and as Chairman and I would like to record our appreciation of his contribution.
Adrian Grinsell and Catherine Wines are now Managing Director of HTEC and of
Currency Division respectively.


We expect a strong second half at HTEC and are seeking to ensure continued
improvement in trading at Currency Division arising from the summer season at
Master Change and modest growth at First Remit.

Ray Mackie
Executive Chairman

10 September 2004

Consolidated Profit & Loss Account (unaudited)
for the six months ended 30 June 2004

                                                         Six months     Six months      Year ended
                                                         to 30 June     to 30 June     31 December
                                                               2004           2003            2003
                                                              £'000          £'000           £'000

Turnover                                                     20,349         18,967          42,129

Operating profit before development cost write-off and          
exceptional items                                               534            535           1,790
Development costs written off                                 (231)              0         (3,183)

Operational exceptional items                                 (266)           (42)           (645)

Operating profit/(loss) on ordinary activities before            
interest and taxation                                            37            493         (2,038)
Net interest payable and similar charges                      (220)          (287)           (531)

Amortisation of development loan issue costs                   (41)              0           (161)

(Loss)/profit on ordinary activities before taxation          (224)            206         (2,730)
Tax on ordinary activities                                        0           (22)            (61)

(Loss)/profit for the financial period                        (224)            184         (2,791)

Dividends payable - interim/full year                         (153)          (232)           (729)
Retained loss for the financial period                        (377)           (48)         (3,520)

Profit and loss account at 1 January                          3,850          7,226           7,226
Exchange differences                                          (318)            110             144
Profit and loss account at period end                         3,155          7,288           3,850

(Loss)/earnings per share

  Basic and diluted (pence)                                   (0.38)          0.50           (7.04)

  Adjusted before development costs write-off,
  exceptional items and amortisation of development 
  loan issue costs (pence)                                     0.54           0.62            3.02

Consolidated Balance Sheet (unaudited)
as at 30 June
                                                            As at            As at           As at
                                                          30 June          30 June     31 December
                                                             2004             2003            2003
                                                            £'000            £'000           £'000
Fixed assets
  Intangible assets                                        20,983           23,222          20,983

  Tangible assets                                           5,578            6,285           6,005

                                                           26,561           29,507          26,988
Current assets
  Stocks                                                    4,416            2,868           3,716

  Debtors                                                   2,247            3,765           3,419

  Cash at bank and bank deposits                              265              893             310

                                                            6,928            7,526           7,445

  Amounts falling due within one year                     (6,402)          (8,578)         (9,143)

Net current assets/(liabilities)                              526          (1,052)         (1,698)

Total assets less current liabilities                      27,087           28,455          25,290

  Amounts falling due after more one year                 (2,338)          (2,991)           (317)
Net assets                                                 24,749           25,464          24,973

Capital and reserves                                        
Called up share capital                                     3,053            2,221           2,931

  Share premium account                                     9,584            6,763           9,155  
  Revaluation reserves                                        352              585             352
  Other reserves                                            8,603            8,605           8,683
  Profit and loss account                                   3,155            7,288           3,850
Equity shareholders' funds                                 24,747           25,462          24,971     
  Equity minority interest                                      2                2               2

Capital employed                                           24,749           25,464          24,973

Consolidated Cash Flow Statement (Unaudited)
for the six months ended 30 June

                                                         Six months     Six months      Year ended
                                                         to 30 June     to 30 June     31 December
                                                               2004           2003            2003
                                                              £'000          £'000           £'000

Operating profit/(loss)                                          37            493         (2,038)
  Depreciation and amortisation                                 372            569             941
  Write off development costs                                     0              0           3,183
  Loss on disposal of fixed assets                                0              0             126
  Increase in stocks and work in progress                     (700)          (257)            (49)
  Decrease/(increase) in debtors                              1,048          (831)             344
  (Decrease)/increase in creditors                            (502)              7           (352)

Net cash inflow/(outflow) from operating activities             255           (19)           2,155

Returns from investments and servicing of finance
  Interest received                                               0              0               5
  Interest paid                                               (220)          (287)           (536)

Net cash outflow from returns on investments and              
servicing of finance                                          (220)          (287)           (531)

Taxation                                                       (27)            258             234

Capital expenditure - financial investment
  Purchase of tangible fixed assets                           (226)           (85)            (76)
  Purchase of intangible fixed assets                             0          (466)         (2,518)
  Sale of tangible fixed assets                                 171            207             228

Net cash outflow from capital expenditure and financial        
investment                                                     (55)          (344)         (2,366)

Acquisitions and disposals
  Purchase of minority interest                                   0              0             (2)

Net cash outflow from acquisitions and disposals                  0              0             (2)

Equity dividends paid                                         (228)           (47)           (385)

Net cash outflow before management of liquid resources        
and financing                                                 (275)          (439)           (895)

  Capital elements of lease payments                          (218)          (176)           (383)
  Repayment of bank loans                                     (228)          (400)           (800)
  Issue of shares net of expenses                               403          1,366           3,733
  Other new loans                                               589              0             386
  Loan issue costs                                                0              0           (203)

  Net cash inflow from financing                                546            790           2,733

  Increase in cash in period                                    271            351           1,838

Reconciliation of movement in net debt
                                                         Six months     Six months      Year ended
                                                         to 30 June     to 30 June     31 December
                                                               2004           2003            2003
                                                              £'000          £'000           £'000


Increase in cash in period                                      271            351           1,838
Cash (outflow)/inflow from movement in debt and lease          
financing                                                      (96)            576             797

Changes in net debt resulting from cash flows                   175            927           2,635
New finance leases                                            (115)          (107)           (477)
Exchange differences                                              0              0            (34)
Loan issue costs                                              (120)              0             497

Movement in net debt                                           (60)            820           2,621

Net debt at 1 January                                       (4,375)        (6,996)         (6,996) 

Net debt at 30 June                                         (4,435)        (6,176)         (4,375)

Notes to Interim accounts for six months ended 30 June 2004

1.   Publication of non-statutory accounts

     The financial information contained in this interim statement does not
constitute statutory 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 2003. Those
accounts, upon which the auditors issued a qualified opinion, have been
delivered to the Registrar of Companies.  The accounts did not contain a
statement under section 237 (2) or (3).

2.    Basis of preparation of interim financial information

       This interim report was neither audited nor reviewed by the auditors.  It
was approved by the Board on 9 September 2004.  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 2003.

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 0.25 pence per ordinary
share (2003 :0.54 pence per ordinary share) payable on 6 January 2005 to all
shareholders on the register on 3 December 2004.

5.    The earnings per share is calculated by reference to the results and the
weighted average of 58,674,674 shares in issue during the period.  The number of
shares in issue at 30 June 2004 was 60,487,423.

6.    The tax charge, after an adjustment for a prior period, is nil % 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                                                              

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