St Ives shares hit 52-week high on latest IMS

Simon Nias
Thursday, November 29, 2012

St Ives' shares hit a 52-week high of 107.93 on Monday as it published its interim management statement for the first 14 weeks of its 2012/13 financial year.

In its statement the marketing services and print group hailed a "good start" to the financial year, with revenues "broadly flat" on 2011 despite its self-inflicted reduction in print revenues.

However, while print revenues were down following the closures of St Ives' fine art subsidiary Westerham Press and its Blackburn multimedia site in the past 12 months, underlying operating profit was unaffected.

St Ives said this was thanks to an improvement in margins arising from its strategy to exit these commoditised print markets, although it added that trading conditions in print "remain challenging".

The closure of the Leeds direct mail facility and transfer of work to St Ives' Bradford site was said to be on schedule, while point of sale division SP Group was reported to have successfully renegotiated a number of "larger contracts".

Meanwhile, exhibition and events business Service Graphics was said to be benefitting from the reputation for quality and reliability established in the run up to the London 2012 Olympics. Changing order patterns continued to affect Clays, St Ives' book printing subsidiary, although it highlighted the fact that it continues to produce "the majority of the bestselling titles".

Revenue and underlying profit at St Ives growing marketing services division were both "significantly ahead" of last year, with the group continuing to win business on an individual company basis and throught the combined capability of its various subsidiaries.

St Ives said it would continue with its investment strategy in this area of the business and to seek "further selective acquisitions that extend our ability to offer a comprehensive and differentiated propostion to our target markets".

"We continue to make good progress with our strategy to reposition the business and offer an extended range of services and added value customer solutions from across the group's capabilities," said St Ives chief executive Patrick Martell in the statement.

"The actions we have taken to reposition the group have enabled us to make progress in spite of headwinds in the UK economy. The new financial year has started well, the balance sheet remains strong and we remain confident that further progress will be made as we continue to execute our strategy."

St Ives shares were trading at 103p at the time of writing, up 17% on this time last year and outperforming the FTSE 100 index by more than 7% over the 52-week period.

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