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Company Spotlight: Interserve

FINANCE

IT HAS been a good week for Interserve.

The firm reached financial close on a PFI contract with Cornwall County Council covering 17 schools, which will be worth around £95 million.

At the group's annual general meeting chairman Mike Bottjer said that four of the firm's divisions - facilities services, project services, industrial services and investments - had started the year well.

Trading at the equipment services division started more slowly than expected but is picking up well. A spokesman said: 'Orders did not come through as quickly as we had hoped.'He added that the nature of the business made it difficult to forecast.

But the upshot is that Mr Bottjer said group trading was in line with expectations and would show satisfactory progress.City analysts are expecting pretax profits at the group to recover to around £32 million for the full year, compared with a £2.9 million loss last time.

Last year Interserve went through a re-structuring that saw the closure of loss-making or low-return activities and more focus on core operations.The casualties were Westpile, a rail cabling and signalling business, a low-voltage power distribution operation and its tube & fittings scaffolding operation.

Yet at the turn of the year Interserve had a record future workload of £4.3 billion and since then it has continued to win work.

The firm said its markets continued to provide attractive opportunities, which, with its order book, underpin its longterm growth prospects.