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Harts posts major loss

Harts Australia is still looking for a buyer for its New Zealand financial planning operation.

Thursday, September 20th 2001, 7:00AM

Harts Group's Australian parent announced a A$92.7 million loss last week, however it hasn't made any decision about what to do with its New Zealand operations.

The financial planning part of the New Zealand operation is on the market and it is understood that up to five parties, including Tower, Armstrong Jones and AXA have been looking at buying the operations.

Harts NZ isn't the only local financial planning company on the market at the moment. It is understood at least two other substantial firms have offering memorandums in the market place.

Harts Australia's maiden annual result, for the year ending June 30, came in A$110 million below prospectus forecasts. When it was released its share price fell A7c (A12.7%) to close at A4.8c.

Executive chairman Steve Hart is quite upbeat and is taking a positive view of the company's prospects, despite the massive loss.

"I am quietly confident that we have put the worst behind us and return to profitability is imminent," he said.

The loss included a A$17.5 million operating loss, A$62.8 million in writedowns and $10.5 million in bad debts.

The writedowns relate to goodwill associated with the accounting firms acquired by Harts.

Hart said, in a statement, that the company's board, on the advice of senior management, had taken a "conservative approach" and included the writedowns after "a thorough review of carrying values in order to clear the way for expected growth over the next 12 months".

"We are advanced with our planned asset sales and have ceased operations in non-profitable businesses.

"We began our restructuring in January of this year and whilst the turnaround has been slower than hoped the effects of these hard decisions are now being realised."

When Harts listed on the Australian Stock Exchange last year it forecast in its listing prospectus a A$12.3 million net profit for the year to June 30, 2001, on revenues of A$74.4 million. But it managed just A$29.6 million in revenue for the period. 

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