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Company Spotlight: Abbey


ANGLO-IRISH house builder Abbey was one of many lowrated construction firms to quit the London Stock Exchange in recent years in the hope of more interest on the booming Alternative Investment Market.

With hardly any other house builders on AIM - Telford and Artisan are its only peers on the junior exchange - Abbey was hoping to attract more interest and reduce the cost of staying quoted.

Any investors buying into Abbey over the past year will have good reason to feel def lated as the shares closed last week at a 12-month low. They then continued that slide into this week after poor full-year results.

Pre-tax profits slid £7.2 million to £32.4 million on virtually static turnover of £140.8 million.

Margins are under pressure, particularly in the UK, due to rising land costs.

In Ireland, delays on site purchases and construction work star ting are expected to hold back projects and this is unlikely to attract investors swimming in the shallower waters of the AIM market.

Six years ago the stock had slumped to 150p, so investors who bought then are still well ahead. But after hitting 777.5p this spring, the shares have slipped and were down at 580p earlier this week.

Quitting might feel like panic selling but there seems little to entice in the UK or Ireland in the short term, while expansion into Eastern Europe - also plagued by hold-ups - does not look likely to provide any immediate uplift in profits.

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