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Guinness Peat posts loss, Brierley to retire in 2010

Wednesday 27th August 2008

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Guinness Peat Group, the investment company chaired by Ron Brierley, had a first-half loss after writing down the value of its stock holdings.

The net loss was 41 million pounds, from a profit of 92 million pounds a year earlier, the company said in a statement. Sales rose 6.7% to 701 million pounds.

"GPG's portfolio has not been immune from the worldwide sharemarket shakeout and so to that extent, we believe most of those losses will be recovered and more," Brierley said.

GPG broadly follows the investment strategy Brierley pioneered in the 1960s of searching out under-valued companies and using its shareholding to force changes that bolster returns. Brierley today said GPG is working toward "a substantial release of value to shareholders in 2010," coinciding with the company's twentieth anniversary and his retirement as chairman.

Shares of GPG fell 3.4% to NZ$1.43 on the NZX. They have fallen about 20% in the past 12 months, broadly matching the performance of the NZX 50 Index.

GPG's biggest assets are its share portfolio and investment in threadmaker Coats, at about 278 million pounds apiece. It also holds stakes in Tower Australia, Tower (NZ), Capral Aluminium and Turners & Growers.

Coats separately today reported net profit tumbled to US$4.4 million in the six months ended June 30, from US$24.7 million a year earlier. Operating profit before reorganization, impairment and other one-time items was little changed at US$67.5 million.

Coats' core manufacturing "held up well" though its results were hurt by losses in European crafts, refinancing costs and higher foreign exchange charges, Brierley said.

GPG has been forced to absorb losses from Capral Aluminium, the Australian metal processor that "has not been a success" as an investment. GPG plans to support an equity issue by Capral, in the hope that its faith in the business is eventually rewarded.

By Jonathan Underhill

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