Waterford Wedgwood shares fall

Shares in Irish china and crystal firm Waterford Wedgwood fell 11% on the Irish bourse on 6 March after the company reported a net loss of EUR 45.2 million for 2001. The company, whose key US business…

Shares in Irish china and crystal firm Waterford Wedgwood fell 11% on the Irish bourse on 6 March after the company reported a net loss of EUR 45.2 million for 2001. The company, whose key US business was pummelled in the wake of the 11 September attacks, said the difficult trading conditions in 2001 showed no sign of improving in 2002. Last year, the company said it would cut staff numbers by 14%, aiming to save EUR 43 million on an ongoing full-year basis for a one-time charge of EUR 61.8 million. Niamh Brodie, analyst at Merrion Stockbrokers, says the results were slightly behind her expectations but she will not be changing her 2002 forecasts due to the cost savings program. She maintains her “add” on the stock. John Sheehan, analyst at NCB Stockbrokers, said his 2002 EPS estimate of 7.4 cents is based on delivery of the targeted cost savings. He sees trading conditions recovering later in the year, and he“ll review his forecasts after meeting with the company. Also on 6 March, Waterford Wedgwood boosted its stake in English china maker Royal Doulton Plc to 21.29% from 20.5%. The first week of March, it raised that stake from 14.9%. Waterford has said it holds the stake for defensive purposes. Waterford bought its initial stake in Doulton in November, 1999, and analysts say it may be trying to gain more influence in the running of Doulton. Last month, Doulton said that its losses widened to GBP 21.2 million in 2001 from a GBP 9.5 million loss the year before. Waterford“s sales to tourists, most of them from North America, account for around 60% of Waterford Crystal sold in Ireland annually. But the Irish Tourist Board estimates overseas visitors fell 7% on the year to 5.8 million in 2001. Crystal sales fell 15% in 2001 to EUR 368.6 million while sales of ceramic products fell 1.8% to EUR472.9 million. Sales from cookware and other products rose 2% to EUR 170.5 million.