Ushers to seek buy-back option

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Ushers is seeking permission to buy back up to 15 per cent of its own shares.The announcement comes after a disappointing set of annual profits...

Ushers is seeking permission to buy back up to 15 per cent of its own shares.

The announcement comes after a disappointing set of annual profits results.

Although pre-tax profits (excluding exceptionals) rose by 3.3 per cent, the figure including exceptionals was down by 6.7 per cent.

The share price has fallen from 110p at flotation last March to 77p.

Now Ushers wants to prop up earnings per share through a buy-back operation.

The company insists this is a temporary measure.

Ushers chief executive Roger North blames Scottish Courage for delisting Ushers products from those available to Inntrepreneur Pub Company (IPC) lessees.

But the company is set for rehabilitation in April under a separate supply agreement with Grand Pub Company - the merger of IPC and Spring Inns due to launch on March 28.

This will give it wider distribution even than it enjoyed when IPC lessees were allowed to sell Ushers beers .

The company faces another problem - that of decline in profits from contract brewing.

And there is some doubt among its own tenants that the company is investing enough in its estate (see News section, this issue).

Contract brewing has been hit by a series of accidents and disasters. Ushers brews Amstel for HP Bulmer but a million bottles were recalled because fragments of glass were discovered by consumers.

And distribution problems affected sales of Miller Genuine Draft - another brand brewed under licence by the company.

Analysts say that although these problems are short-term, there are other companies worth investing in at the moment.

Big investors, including some major institutions, are free to sell their shares in April so there are long term worries, too.

North says he has bounced back before - last year's successful float was his second attempt, after he was forced to pull out of the first attempt in 1995.

Related topics: Other operators

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