(Adds CEO and analyst comments, share price)
LONDON, July 10 (Reuters) - Britain's Photo-Me International PHTM.L said it would return to profit growth next year after a writedown in the value of its digital photo-booths plunged it to its first loss for five years.
“In the current year, we will concentrate on stability, consolidation and restructuring”, Chief Executive Thierry Barel told Reuters on Thursday. “After this year, we are heading for one-digit solid profitable growth.”
The company’s shares, which have lost 84 percent of their value over the last 12 months, fell a further 6 percent at 12 pence by 1115 GMT.
Photo-Me, which operates about 21,000 photo booths in railway stations, airports and shopping centres, posted a pretax loss of 21.6 million pounds ($42.8 million) for the year to April 30, against a 15.7 million pound profit in the prior year.
Excluding the costs of restructuring and cutting the lifespan of its first-generation digital photo booths from eight years to five, the loss was 1.9 million, he said. Analysts had expected a loss of 3.7 million, according to Reuters Estimates.
Analyst Roger Hardman at Hardman & Co said earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation of 35.8 million pounds met expectations.
“The results were just what we were looking for,” said. “The photo-booth business just throws off money.”
But in terms of strategy, the big issue is what to do on the manufacturing side which made a 7.8 million pounds loss before exceptionals, he said. “It’s going to be another rough year; they will lose money in the current year on manufacturing.”
Barel, who became CEO in December, said he was looking at leveraging synergies between the manufacturing and vending units as part of his diversification strategy.
He had considered selling the core vending business, which is suffering as passport agencies move to centralised biometric data collection, but the board had received no acceptable offers.
“There is a risk of further deterioration in photo booths,” he said. “We decided to accelerate diversification to depend less and less on photo booths.”
He is building on the group’s strong long-term relationship with its key customers, such as retailers and transport operators, and on its cash-collection experience, to expand operations.
“One of the first drivers will be kiosks, which sell move and music downloads and ringtones,” he said. “Studies show in the next three years, the kiosk market will grow by 55 percent.”
The strategy has the support of three major shareholders -- previously ousted CEO Serge Crasnianski and former directors Dan David and Phillippe Wahl -- who together hold more than 40 percent of the stock, he said.
“Many of the ideas of the new strategy are shared by them,” he said.
Restructuring costs pushed net debt up to 45.5 million pounds, and Barel said one of his main objectives is reducing this number. “In the past we have been able to go back to a net cash position in less than two years,” he said. (Editing by David Cowell)
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