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Company spotlight: Jarvis


IS IT time for investors to consider buying Jarvis again?

After free falling, the stock had been edging up again until November, when the institutions that control what is left of the empire created by Paris Moyaedi started shuffling around their holdings.

That unsettled the market but had been preceded by the sale of road markings operation Prismo to US group Ennis, which also raised some eyebrows in the City. The deal raised £9.5 million for a business that was losing money but had seemed central to a fresh business plan in road, rail and accommodation work.

Unprofitable contracts in accommodation services are also being sold on but Jarvis as a business is still losing money on ongoing operations.

The deficit has been drastically reduced and pre-tax losses on continuing operations dropped to just £1.5 million in the half-year to September 2006, compared with £59.3 million this time last year.

Turnover is also falling, down to £153 million from £177.7 million a year ago, but that is better than the sort of dash for large-scale cash generative work that signifies a contracting business in trouble.

What are rising at Jarvis, though, are debts. A year ago, Jarvis owed £6.2 million but that figure is now £45.8 million.

With overheads being cut to provide £10 million in savings, Jarvis is still drawing its horns in and that does not augur well.

The board accepts that 'challenges' still lie ahead and that admission should be enough to steer potential investors away for now.