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Aquarius shares flow on upward path.

Aquarius, a mini-group assembled by the 'corporate nursery' Gartland Whalley & Barker and floated in 1996, is about to dismember itself in an effort to realise the value of its successful activities which have hitherto be masked by losses elsewhere.

The news set Aquarius's depressed AIM-listed shares ablaze yesterday. They finished 16p ahead at 441/1p, although still a fraction of the 166p at which they came to the market five years ago.

Aquarius's shareholders will receive shares in its upholstered furniture subsidiary Collins and Hayes when they are launched on AIM next month and in Airbath, a maker of luxury bathroom equipment, when it follows in August or September. GWB will own 58 per cent of the shares in each, as it does in Aquarius.

The rump of homewares companies, Turner Brothers and Welwyn Lighting, will either be bought by GWB, or, if a price cannot be agreed, be de-listed.

Pine Design, which made wooden bathroom cabinets in Eccleshall, Staffordshire, was closed last December with the loss of 125 jobs and the operation of AE Clutterbuck in Solihull have been moved to Welwyn Lighting's factory.

'The sum of the Collins and Hayes and bathroom group businesses will be worth significantly more to shareholders than the current value of the Aquarius group,' said chairmanTony Gartland.

'In order to release that value, it is essential to separate out those businesses and to establish them as new strategically focused groups operating in their specific high value added niche markets with new group management.'

In the 14 months to March, the furniture companies made operating profits before goodwill amortisation and exceptional costs of pounds 4.1 million on sales of pounds 23.2 million and the bathroom companies pounds 3 million on sales of pounds 19.5 million. The homewares side contributed only pounds 300,000 on sales of pounds 18.5 million.

After exceptional charges of pounds 10.3 million, goodwill amortisation and interest, Aquarius was left with a 14-month loss of pounds 6.5 million. There is no dividend.
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:May 31, 2001
Words:337
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