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Company Spotlight: Samuel Heath

FINANCE

INVESTORS holding stock in products outfit Samuel Heath must have been feeling the jitters at the half-year stage.

But investment helped pre-tax profits up to £852,000 for the year to March 2004, which is down £210,000 on 2003, but better than some expected.

This also enabled the firm to maintain the full-year dividend at 13.5p but prospects still look grim.

The board has already admitted that increased competition will leave profits in the next 12 months 'considerably lower' than in the past year, Established in 1820, the company initially manufactured brass bedstead ornaments and candlesticks and became a public limited company a full 114 years ago.

The firm has since moved into bathroom products, doors and windows. It has ploughed money into new products over the last year and its new Xenon taps are gaining market share.

With a market capitalisation of only £10 million, Samuel Heath is listed - like many small cap products firms - on the Alternative Investment Market, where dealing costs are lower.

The firm had been buying and cancelling stock to increase shareholder value and another 4,250 shares were killed in the last financial year, while Swedish bank Svenska Handelsbanken has slowly raised its stake in the firm to 5.7 per cent.

This has prompted some speculative buying and raised the price, leaving the shares with a price-to-earnings ratio of around 14. Finding a case to buy the stock is difficult.