Review of the Year

Article excerpt

H- IN March, Hawtin, the South Wales-based leisure-products group, unveiled a dramatic plunge in fullyear profits with no final dividend for its shareholders.

The dark clouds over the group, which has its head office in Cardiff, have resulted in redundancies within a number of its businesses.

The share price continued to languish yesterday at 11p.

Hawtin, whose chief executive Phillip Dovey stood down in December, has appointed former Hicking Pentecost chairman and chief executive Tudor Davies to advise on the appointment of a new chief.

In the year to December 31, pre-tax profits were pounds 448,000 as against pounds 2.1m in 1999. The group issued a profits warning in November.

Chairman Leonard Dovey said there had been a "splendid performance" from the group's waterbased companies, especially Spaform. The business had retained its customer base by Herculean effort and staff loyalty.

Other companies had experienced setbacks and had severely reduced the level of profitability, said Mr Dovey.

In retrospect, it was felt that Hawtin had been operating in too broad an arena in recent years.

Loss-making activities were being discontinued and prudent provisions had been made. Restructuring was taking place towards core activities in active leisure. Property sales during the year generated pounds 2.6m.

With no final dividend, the total amount for the year is 0.6p against 1.92p in the previous year.

I- THE ICELAND GROUP - St David's Day saw Malcolm Walker, the man who founded the Iceland frozen foods group, resign as chairman over his pounds 13.5m share sale.

It was the climax to a tumultuous week in the 30-year history of the group - a week which saw a dramatic plunge in the share price and warnings of plunging profits along with two senior resignations.

While Mr Walker, 54, may now be very much yesterday's man, he has the cushion of a few millions in the bank while shareholders in the company can only look on in horror.

The group, with its famous slogan of "Mum's gone to Iceland, " now became a likely takeover target and saw its value plummet to nearly half its pounds 1.2bn price at the beginning of the year.

For Mr Walker, who announced his complete retirement from the group that he had cofounded with Peter Hinchcliffe, it was all very straightforward.

He had made the decision in view of the intense media interest and speculation of the last few days.

"It is 30 years to the week since I became a full-time employee of Iceland, and I would like to record my pride in having helped to create a business that has become one of the leading food retailing and ecommerce brands in the UK."

He added, "I am confident that I leave the business in good hands and look forward."

Iceland's new chairman is David Price, a man seen as having a wealth of City experience including the chairmanship of Foreign & Colonial Management Ltd.

J- THE Japan 2001 initiative is a theme close to the hearts of many businesses and organisations in Wales.

In 2001, the first year of the new century, a series of Japan 2001 events were held throughout the UK.

Their purpose was to celebrate and expand the links between the two countries and to introduce Japanese culture to a wider UK audience.

The idea of Japan 2001 is strongly supported by the British and Japanese Prime Ministers as an important tool in furthering the friendship that exists between the two countries.

The Prince of Wales agreed to be Joint Patron of Japan 2001, together with the Crown Prince of Japan.

Events will start in May 2001, a decade after the Japan Festival of 1991, and will run until the end of March, 2002.

In recent years, the two countries have established close working ties. Britain is the main pillar of Japanese relations with Europe, and Japan lies at the heart of Britain's policy towards the AsiaPacific region. …