wholesale product 

MTS restates revenue, earnings

Grocery gamble: Risk taking leads to $100 million supermarket chain. Sales Power Stratigic shift: Firm targets private sector after years of military work. Franchise Center
Browse a comprehensive directory of the nation's fastest-growing franchise opportunities. bizwomen Clearly speaking: Pa Britney Xiong. who was 2 when her family immigrated. started at their Western Bilingual Services when she was 16. Today. she runs the six-employee firm from a storefront office on Milwaukee's south side.
MTS Medication Technologies said a change in accounting for revenue from products that it ships to customers has led to a restatement of its financial information for the second and third quarters of fiscal 2006.
The company said the cumulative effect of the restatement for the two quarters ended Dec. 31 was a $15.000 reduction in net income available to common stockholders. The impact on earnings per diluted common share was nil. the company said in a release.
Historically. a St. Petersburg-based provider of medication compliance packaging systems. recognized revenue when it shipped consumable to customers. believing that was the point at which title and risk of loss transferred to the customer. according to the release. However. it was determined that title and risk of loss for some shipments. primarily those made to wholesale distributors. did not transfer until the product was received by the customer.
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VOICE.SKY Launches Hosted Services at CBX 2006

a facilities-based carrier with domestic and global points of presence in New York. announces the launch of their new hosted service applications for service providers. With VOICE.SKY? service providers can capitalize on the Company's carrier-grade infrastructure to generate revenue through new voice services. From Vonage-like phone services to pre-paid calling card. provides services for immediate revenue generation. VOICE.SKY's suite of applications includes:VSKY Calling CardThe calling card market is growing at 25 percent per year. With VSKY Prepaid you too can penetrate this market and offer your own blend of calling card products.VSKY Dial-AroundWith VSKY Dial-Around customers can register their home. office or cellular numbers to make domestic and international calls. VSKY Dial-Around is only available in the United States and Canada.VSKY SoftphoneWith VSKY Softphone customers can use their PC/laptop to make calls to both land-line and wireless phones.VSKY IP PhoneWith VSKY Phone customers can use an IP Phone or IP adapter and their traditional phone to make and receive calls to both land-line and wireless phones.VSKY M-CenterWith VSKY M-Center customers can enjoy the benefits of unified messaging.VSKY SolutionsWith VOICE.SKY's solutions service providers can offer applications in a variety of settings including: IP Callshop. College Calling Services (calling cards/dorm phones). Enterprise Calling Services (employee calling plans). Tollfree Services. International Telephone Numbers. and Collect Call Services.VOICE.SKY's flexible platform allows Service Providers. Institutions and Enterprises to offer a wide variety of feature rich applications to serve various markets and customers while at the same time preserving the service provider's corporate identity through VOICE.SKY's private label offering. and greater control of their revenue model by allowing clients to establish their own retail rates or use their own routes. In addition. a dedicated Research & Development team allows VOICE.SKY customers to enjoy ongoing product. service and feature releases. at no additional cost. allowing service providers to continue to deliver value to their customers. To learn more contact VOICE.SKY today.About VOICE.SKY? CommunicationsVOICE.SKY Communications is a facilities-based carrier with domestic and global points of presence in New York. and Hong Kong that serves carriers and service providers including PTTs. Wireless Operators. and ISPs. Through its carrier grade platform. and fully redundant MPLS network. VOICE.SKY delivers quality. and value to customers. To carriers. VOICE.SKY offers switch partitioning and wholesale domestic and international routes. To service providers. VOICE.SKY offers private label hosted applications such as calling card. operator services. pc2phone and broadband phone services. With VOICE.SKY. customers can focus on growing their core business while leveraging VOICE.SKY's expertise. For more information. visit voicesky.15 Loockerman Street. website: voicesky###


CME Pork Review: Hogs Surge To New Highs; Bellies Up

CHICAGO (Dow Jones)--Chicago Mercantile Exchange hogs settled sharply higher Tuesday. with all trading months posting new contract highs except February. on short covering. fund buying and spreading. Pork cutouts' persistent strength. packers competing for tight supplies and light hog weights provided added lift.
CDT on Wednesday. made a new contract high of 75.35 cents a pound. July's new contract high is 73.87 cents where it briefly christened hog's newly expanded 300-points daily trading limit.
Futures trading also featured aggressive July/August bull spreading against fund factions moving some of their July long positions into August on the eve of the last official day of the Goldman Roll. The roll is done in association with the Goldman Sachs Commodity Index.
Country hog buyers predict steady to possibly higher cash bids from packers on Wednesday. although there were bearish sentiments on and off the trading floor that cash hog prices may be nearing highs for the year.
And while the June contract appears to be keeping pace with strong cash sales at Iowa/Southern Minnesota. June and July are also venturing further into bearish overbought Relative Strength Index territory.
Aside from July/August bull spreading and Goldman rolling in the opposite direction. August/October bear and December/February bull positioning were also common.
ABN Amro bought July and August outright. RJ O'Brien was an outright June and August buyer. Rosenthal bought June and July outright and was a July/August roller. Fimat. Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan sold July and bought August on the roll. Cadent Financial sold August.
Also. speculative buying driven by tight hog supplies and elbowing ahead of CME's weekly belly storage report on Tuesday after 4 p.m. CDT helped futures recover from initial declines caused by profit taking and disinterested buyers.
Analysts and floor traders estimate CME's weekly belly storage data could show that 800.000 to 1.5 million pounds of product was taken out exchange-approved warehouses last week. Last year during the same period 1.044 million pounds of bellies were removed from storage.


From Broke Grad to Multimillionaire: Nine Ways to Get There Faster

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Sure. it's a scary time in your life. but it's also one that's ripe with opportunity. The author of Automatic Wealth for Grads reminds you that you're actually at the perfect age to start building some serious wealth-and reveals some real-world ways to get started.
Hoboken. NJ (June 2006) - Graduation is here - FINALLY - and mixed in with your cap-tossing elation is a healthy dose of fear. It's all up to YOU now. How will you support yourself in an uncertain. ever-more-expensive world? Your financial anxiety is understandable. We ALL share it. But while you may feel overwhelmed. Michael Masterson reminds you that your age actually gives you an economic advantage over the rest of us.
"Most young people simply have no concept of how simple it is to build wealth." says Masterson. "I didn't say easy. because hard work and self-discipline are required. but simple. Any reasonably intelligent person with a fairly ordinary career trajectory can do it. But now is the time to get started-with every year that passes. your window of opportunity closes a little more."
Here. excerpted from his book Automatic Wealth for Grads . . . and Anyone Else Just Starting Out (Wiley. are some practical. proven steps you can take to start building wealth while you're young:
Pick a great career. Frequently changing jobs when you are first starting out will only set you back in your goal to achieve wealth. "Instead of focusing on businesses or products that you like to use. focus on activities that you like to do." Masterson advises. Are you a talker? Do you like to write? When comparing one sort of job to the next. look at specific positions and find out what kinds of activities comprise most of the time spent.
Start saving the minute you graduate. Your college days are over. No more spending every last penny on dining out and drinking with friends at your favorite bar. Even if you just started working and feel overwhelmed by the college loans you have to pay back. you must start your saving program today. The reason you want to start saving now. even if your income is small. is that you want to create the habit of saving. "When saving becomes habitual. it becomes easier." says Masterson. "And anything that you can do easily. and over a longer term." The result. will be significant compounding wealth.
Become an invaluable employee. To earn significantly higher raises than the average person. you must perform at a significantly higher level than your coworkers. "So long as your work performance is ordinary. you can't expect anything more than an ordinary salary." says Masterson. "But if you change your work habits and contribute substantially more than your fellow workers. you can rightly expect to be paid substantially more than they are getting."
Start to invest this year and invest more every year till you're rich. You might think that sounds like it is easier said than done. but it actually is easy to do. By investing 15 percent of your income starting with your first paycheck. and getting slightly higher than average raises. you can get wealthy quickly-and very. very wealthy by the time your friends and colleagues start to think about planning for retirement.
Share an apartment. Sharing an apartment won't be like sharing your cramped dorm room in college. You'll have a lot more of your own personal space. and you shouldn't have a problem avoiding the need for bunk beds. Assuming that you start out at around $30. it is important that you spend no more than around $750 in rent per month. "Minimizing your living expenses will make a big difference in helping you to accumulate wealth." says Masterson.
Increase your rate of saving as your income increases. In other words. instead of sticking with saving 15 percent of your income throughout your career. you could bump your saving rate up as your income goes up. "Be careful." warns Masterson. "You can't do this too aggressively. Nor can you do it forever."
Invest in real estate. Next to owning your own business. investing in real estate gives you the highest potential return on investment (ROI). "As a recent graduate (or young person). real estate offers you a tremendous opportunity." explains Masterson. "That's because you don't need a lot of money to get started and you can use your youth (the many years you have to let your investments appreciate) to work in your favor." Consider the numbers. In a typical leveraged (mortgaged) real estate deal.000 property. If that property appreciates 4 percent (or $4. the ROI you achieve is not 4 percent but 20 percent because of the leverage ($4.000). "With our current economic situation. now is not the best time to invest in real estate." warns Masterson. "The time will be right when prices start to come down."
Become a "chicken entrepreneur." No. this doesn't mean you have to work on a farm. and (unfortunately) there is no funky dance involved. It simply means that you start your own business on the side while keeping your job with another company. "I favor this approach because it allows you to extend your wealth and business experience. while working under a safety net in case things don't work out." says Masterson.
Identify and eliminate your major time killers. Unfortunately. the list of time killers may include some of your favorite things. such as watching TV. playing video games. etc. A time killer is any activity that consumes most or all of your mental energy and provides little-if anything-in the way of lasting benefits. The worst time killers not only give you nothing in exchange for the time you invest in them but also leave you weaker. and duller than you were before. "Eliminating your time killers will give you back hundreds of precious. productive hours every year." says Masterson. "That's time you can devote to achieving your goals. enjoying friends and family...and making the world a little better than you found it."
Speaking of saving the world. if you're worried that so much focusing on money is incompatible with your idealism. don't be. You don't have to give up your altruistic goals. In fact. making yourself financially comfortable is the best way to ensure that you have the time and the means to achieve them.
"Right now. you may think becoming a millionaire is not a laudable goal." notes Masterson. "You might say money doesn't matter. Well. it may not matter now. but it certainly will when your kids are applying to colleges or when you're approaching retirement. Financial independence frees you to live a rich. authentic life. And that's the true definition of wealth."
Michael Masterson has been making money for himself and others for almost four decades. At one time or another. he's owned and run companies that were public/private. local/international. retail/wholesale/direct mail. and even profit/not-for-profit. Masterson is the author of Automatic Wealth: The Six Steps to Financial Independence. Power and Persuasion: How to Command Success in Business and Your Personal Life. and Confessions of a Self-Made Millionaire.
Automatic Wealth for Grads . . . and Anyone Else Just Starting Out (Wiley. major online booksellers.


Tracking the High Cost of Gas

Mississippi - Most of us are sick of paying those high gas prices. Have you ever wondered just what exactly you're paying for when you fill up?
First stop: the Chevron Refinery in Pascagoula. Mississippi. This is literally where the story begins. along the Mississippi Sound. which is along the Gulf Coast.
You have a tanker. with the crude oil in it. It will actually go into pipelines here at this refinery in Pascagoula. and there are tons of pipelines. to say the least.
"There are 18 grades of gasoline that have to be made.' said Roland Kell. Chevron General Manager at the Pascagoula Refinery. 'You can't just take crude oil and put it into a motor vehicle..."
The costs at the refinery are roughly 13 percent of the price you pay at the pump. So 60 percent is the cost of oil. and now 13 percent is refinery costs. Once done here. the oil leaves Pascagoula and heads through underground pipelines about 200 miles north to Collins. Mississippi.
And so we've made it to Collins. Mississippi. The gasoline is stored here in huge storage tanks. Five million gallons of gasoline. And then what happens? the truckers become involved. It's where they start to fill up.
"This is where the consumer sees it leave until it gets to a retail station.' said Jeffrey Walls. Chevron Terminal Manager at Collins. Mississippi. 'They see the transport trucks that come in here day by day. which load the product that actually comes to the communities in which they live."
At this stage. the wholesale price is set. It's also known as the rack price. This is the price the gas station owner actually pays for the gas. Included in this price is the oil companies' profit. roughly about four cents per gallon. depending on the market at the time.
The gas station owner now adds distribution and marketing costs. In other words. the gas has to be transported to his service stations. so there's a cost in that. Plus. the dealer has to advertise and pay licensing and insurance fees. plus add some profit. which is usually not more than a few pennies per gallon.
So add that up and it comes to about seven percent of the total per gallon cost. That means 60 percent for oil. 13 percent for refinery costs. and seven percent for distribution and marketing.
The truckers typically go back and forth from the terminal to the service stations a few times a day. we're on our way to Hattiesburg. about 20 miles from the terminal.
Once the trucker arrives. it's time to unload the gas. It's a delicate procedure. The biggest oil dipstick you'll ever see is used. to make sure moisture hasn't built up in the pipelines underground. Well. now that the gas is here at the pump. let's go back to our cost assessment
The oil. and marketing costs added up to 80 percent. So what about the other 20 percent? That's where federal. and local governments take their share. because taxes make up the rest.
So while oil companies say they get around four cents a gallon. the government is taking 14 times that amount. Here in Hattiesburg on this day. the price per gallon is $2.77 per gallon. So using those percentages. 36 cents in refinery costs. 20 cents in distribution and marketing. but what about the guy across the street? and in California. it can all get pretty complicated. but here are a couple of possible reasons. The service station across the street may be cheaper because it may be an 'unbranded" station.
In other words. it's selling a cheaper gasoline. a "generic" gasoline. not the Chevron type gasoline that has a special additive in it that cleans your fuel system. Shell. Exxon and others also all have their own additives.
Then there's zone pricing. You could have service stations a mile or two apart or even right across the street from one another. but they are in different zones and that means different prices.
While prices are high everywhere. it's really bad in California. That's because taxes are higher there. Also. they're somewhat isolated from the maze of pipelines coming out of the Gulf Coast. so transportation costs are higher.
And then there's the fact that because of California's air pollution problems. they have to use a special clean-burning fuel. Same thing for many cities on the East Coast too.
"In a rural part of America. you can use a bunch of different types of gasoline.' Nesterak said. 'In a place like Baltimore or a place like Washington. you have to use a reformulated gasoline and the components go into that reformulated gasoline are very. very costly."
Trying to figure all of this out can be challenging. Even Albert Einstein may have some difficulty. The only thing we know for sure is that gas prices are driving us nuts.


Family, customers and freshness come first at Fulgi's market

Fulgi's Seafood & Meats is all in the family. Father Fulgencio (nicknamed Fulgi.a is joined by his daughter. and even his nephew in running their retail and wholesale quality seafood and meat business. "I tried working at a retail clothing shop and I hated it. of leaving the business to try something new for a while. "Here. I love it." And she loves working for her father. "He's my best friend."Fulgi Valma?a has been in the seafood business since he was ten years old. The son of a fisherman. he grew up in Miami and knows the business inside and out. Local customers count on him for quality seafood and steaks. as do many local restaurant owners who want fresh. local products."We started in the old flea market in 1999. customers there wanted to know where I was during the week. I wanted to establish myself. so I opened the shop." Of the now-closed Naples tradition. "We met so many interesting people there at the flea market." Those loyal customers helped launch his business.The Valma?as are obsessed with quality and natural foods. "We cut our own fish. and grade our own shrimp." He said they get all their seafood locally. right off local boats. from local fishermen.He believes chemical-free food is a must. Recently. the shop's massive display case was lined with fresh fish. including a 12-pound grouper. and plenty of shrimp. "That's our biggest seller here; people in Naples love shrimp. the shrimp in the case may look odd. "They're head-on." he said. "A lot of people aren't used to that."They also sell a lot of steaks. especially in the summer. "It's barbecue time." Fulgi noted. "I take a lot of pride in the quality of the cuts." adding that he only uses Iowa beef. "It's the highest grade. taste and quality." The Valma?as also make all of their sausage and deli meats in-house. One of his best-selling specialties is a fresh chunky tuna salad. "Our tuna salad is fresh yellowtail." he said.What does he like most about a family business? "Your kids can come to work with you. You can't do that when you work for someone else."What does the owner like to do on his days off? "Spend time with my family." Fulgi said. "Then there is always my 'honey do' list. 'Honey.'" he said with a smile."And believe it or not." said daughter Meilin.The shop also carries different lines of condiments to enhance their products. "We have the best barbecue sauce ever. referring to the Everglades Moppin' Sauce."These are all local products. showing his unique line. which includes Gator Hammock Hogwild Sauce. Gator Hammock Gator Sauce and the Everglades sauces. "We also have different high-grade spices that compliment fish and meats."The entire family takes great pride in their business. "I think that's because I've seen my dad work so hard since I was young." said Meilin. "He wouldn't sell anything he wouldn't put on the table for us.""We do take pride in what we do. and in being family-oriented." her father said.Of their customers. he noted: "When they come to me they are looking for fresh product. free of sulfites. I have a very diversified customer base. a lot of Europeans. Russians; it's like an international market here."Fulgi's Seafood & Meats is located at 5496 Rattlesnake-Hammock Road.


BT cuts prices for ISPs

Broadband prices may fall again after BT's Openreach offshoot last week announced lower charges for service providers to transfer customers from BT's wholesale broadband services to Openreach's shared local-loop unbundled (LLU) offering.
Openreach will reduce the price for LLU operators migrating customers in bulk from BT Wholesale's broadband products to competing services by 27 percent. giving a new price of '25.39 + VAT from 1 July. The offer will be available to LLU operators that migrate their existing IPstream or Datastream end-customers in bulk to shared LLU.
Openreach also announced a mass migration product letting LLU operators migrate BT Wholesale broadband and phone customers to full LLU at a cost of '27.54 + VAT.
Under Ofcom rules the price is fixed unless BT hits 1.5 million unbundled lines or until July 2007. It remains to be seen whether ISPs will pass on the savings to customers. According to Openreach.000 LLU lines in place.
Sandra O'Boyle of Current Analysis said. 'Carphone Warehouse and the other LLU customers should be happy with the price cuts but only if BT systems supporting the line transfers are right first time.'
In related news. Carphone Warehouse said that 340.000 customers had signed up for its Free Broadband; and Bulldog announced that it will now focus on wholesaling its LLU capability rather than selling direct to end-users and small firms.
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New Peachtree by Sage Premium Accounting for Manufacturing 2007 and Peachtree by

Products Bring Redesigned Navigation. Faster Information Access. Tighter Integration With Microsoft(R) Office and More Power to Small Manufacturers and Distributors
ATLANTA. including new versions of Peachtree by Sage Premium Accounting for Manufacturing and Peachtree by Sage Premium Accounting for Distribution. in addition to the new Peachtree by Sage - Quantum. a high performance solution that supports up to 10 named users(1). and includes free support. upgrades and updates in an automatic annual renewal plan(2). These products. targeted to small manufacturers and wholesale distributors. provide the business management tools manufacturers and distributors need to achieve their short and long-term goals. and are the entry step for manufacturers and distributors into the Sage Software family of products.
Manufacturers and distributors alike will benefit from capabilities available in Peachtree for more profitable inventory management. Serialized inventory tracking. multiple costing methods. flexible bill of materials processing. kitting and assemblies and the ability to sell in multi-quantity units are just a few of the advanced inventory functions included in these products for more effective. profitable inventory management.
"Accurate. real-time knowledge of inventory levels and easy access to that data is critical for small manufacturers and distributors to manage their cash flow. vice president of product management. Sage Software. "Peachtree Premium for Manufacturing. Peachtree Premium for Distribution and the new Peachtree - Quantum will help our customers to accomplish those tasks. stay on top of cash flow and stay ahead of the game."
Customers and vendors are vital to any business. and the ability to manage their information is critical to success. Peachtree 2007 products include a myriad of tools to assist with that management. Customer Transaction screens show purchase history. credit status and credit limit. before a deal is closed. Customer balances also can be printed on invoices as a gentle reminder of outstanding balances. Customer statements and transaction history reports are easily printed; the system also allows for up to 20 addresses for each customer and vendor. invoices or payments can be directed to an accurate address every time. Orders and backorders can be tracked and customer quotes can be generated quickly and easily. saving time for active businesses with an eye on their bottom line.
The net result of thousands of hours of customer input and onsite design and testing. the Peachtree 2007 line combines the accuracy and control for which Peachtree is known with significant improvements to the product interface. user experience and work flow. These industry-focused editions combine manufacturing- and distribution-specific functionality with powerful accounting tools to create an ideal solution for small manufacturers and distributors. In addition to the extended capacity of the new Peachtree by Sage - Quantum. new capabilities in the 2007 versions include improvements around navigation and data access.
New with the 2007 product line is the Business Status Center(3). a dashboard of critical. real-time information about the health of the business. With eight sections available. the Business Status Center is customizable by user and provides instant access to an integrated view of key business measurements and indicators. From this dashboard. small businesses can quickly gain insight as to who their most profitable customers are. what bills need to be paid and what is owed to them. as well as many other indicators for their business.
"With the Business Status Center. I have instant access to all the information I need. right at my fingertips." said Paula Gilliland. Accounting Manager. Physimetrics. "I can easily see what items are selling the most. which customers are buying the most. and when we need to restock. Peachtree helps me to stay on top of our inventory and keep our cash flow on track."
Peachtree 2007 also features enhanced integration with Microsoft Office. adding more powerful links with Excel? to the existing Office integration technologies built into the product since 1999.
Integration with Excel: With more robust options for exporting data. small businesses will be able to export Peachtree report layouts into Excel that include both the formulas for calculated values. and the report formatting. as well as the option to retain viewing capabilities such as freeze pane. auto-filtering and report headers.
Outlook Contact synchronization: This feature synchronizes vendor. customer and employee contacts in Peachtree with those in Outlook. so that contact information will only need to be entered once. A dynamic synchronization process within Peachtree 2007 will keep this contact information up to date.
Navigation within the Peachtree 2007 products has been significantly improved with new access and workflow enhancements. While familiar top pull down menus are still available. new side menus have been added and are visible from every screen for faster data access and easier navigation. New Navigation Centers provide simplified access to the most common areas within Peachtree. such as Customers. and others. Users are also able to create customized navigation shortcuts for commonly performed tasks.
Growing companies recognize Peachtree as a powerful tool to help them manage current and future growth. and Sage Software offers the assistance they need to manage that growth. As small manufacturers and distributors grow and require additional capabilities from their software. Sage Software offers a clear migration path to the company's Sage MAS 90. Peachtree Premium Accounting for Manufacturing 2007. and Peachtree Premium Accounting for Distribution 2007. are available direct from Sage Software. selected resellers. and from hundreds of Peachtree Certified Consultants(4) nationwide. Multi-User Value Packs (5 seat license) are available for the industry specific solutions; 10 seat licenses are available for Peachtree Quantum. Peachtree Premium Accounting for Manufacturing and Peachtree Premium Accounting for Distribution are $599.99 for a single user; $1199.99 for 5 seat Multi-User packs. Peachtree Quantum is $3750.00 for new customers. $2995.00 for upgrading customers.
Sage Software supports the needs. challenges and dreams of more than 2.6 million small and mid-sized business customers in North America through easy-to-use. scalable and customizable software and services. Our products support accounting. customer relationship management. merchant services and the specialized needs of accounting practices and the construction. nonprofit and real estate industries. Sage Software is part of The Sage Group plc. a leading international supplier of accounting and business management software solutions and related products and services for small to mid-sized businesses. Formed in 1981. Sage was floated on the London Stock Exchange in 1989 and the Group now has 5 million customers and employs over 10.500 people worldwide. For more information. please visit the Web site at sagesoftware/moreinfo or call (866) 308-2378.
(1) Subject to the terms of the End User License Agreement. A maximum of 10 licensed named users are allowed. Only the first 10 named users selected in the user maintenance screen are considered licensed named users.
(2) Your Peachtree Quantum Signature Care Plan (which includes product upgrades. product updates and customer support) will be renewed automatically each year on the anniversary date of your purchase unless you terminate your agreement prior to that date. Renewal is not required for continued access to product updates.


Compagnie Financiere Richemont Fiscal 2006 Earnings Call

the Swiss luxury goods group. on 15% growth in the sales of the Maisons. Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels. as well as 22% growth in specialist watchmaking division. While Chloe has turned around in terms of revenue and cash flow. Lancel and Dunhill are incurring losses. Richemont's share of BAT results decreased by 39% to '486 million. During the first two months of fiscal 2006. business grew around 18%.Investors Question and Answers
) on June 8. 2006.Key Investors Issues- Overall. underlying profit from the luxury businesses jumped 47% to '713 million. - Quarterly revenue was up 17% to '4. Richemont's holding in BAT is valued at around '7.6 billion.Fiscal 2005 Financial HighlightsThe group sales were up by 17% to '4.308 million.Excluding the impact of Hackett. group sales were up 18%. Both retail and wholesale increased in a similar fashion by 17% and 18% respectively. The retail performance is largely due to Cartier. but as also due to the strong growth at MontBlanc and Van Cleef & Arpels. and the exceptional performance of Chlo'. The wholesale performance reflects mostly the specialist watchmakers trading at plus 22%.During the year. the Euro appreciated slightly versus the Swiss Franc while it rose by 1.9% versus the Yen. On the other hand. the Euro depreciated 3.3% against U.S. dollar. The recovery of the dollar in particular from April 2005 until December 2005 has contributed to the strong performance during the period.All regions showed a double-digit increase in sales.European sales grew by 15% reflecting growth in all major markets. In Europe. all the markets grew for the second consecutive year. due to an increase in tourism supported by a weaker euro and improved local economies. The performance of the UK has improved slightly while Switzerland and Italy have the best performance in Western Europe. The Middle East and Russia that represent respectively 9% and 3% of the European sales continue to grow strongly up by 33% and 42% respectively.Sales in Japan grew by 13% with a strong performance from the specialist watchmakers as well as MontBlanc and Cartier.Sales in Asia-Pacific were buoyant despite the challenging comparative base. The 19% increase reflects the strong performance in Hong Kong. and enrolled into China. In Asia-Pacific all the markets but Korea experienced strong double-digit growth despite challenging days. Hong Kong. the group's fourth largest market. grew by 21% on top of the strong drive in natural side due to a strong local economy and high level tourism especially from Mainland China. China already represents 13% of the region sales and close to 3% of the group sales. This is the third largest market in Asia-Pacific behind Hong Kong and nearly on par with Taiwan. Cartier. MontBlanc and Dunhill are now operating their own distributions subsidiaries in Mainland China.Sales in the Americas boomed again despite Hurricane Katrina. and stock exchange relativity. Within the Americas. the domestic US market accounts for some 75% of sales. Sales there rose by 27%. reflecting the excellent performance of the Jewellery Maison. specialist watchmakers. in particular IWC and Officine Panerai and Chlo'. which more than doubled sales in the region.Sales increased at double digit rates in nearly all segments.Chlo' showed the best performance in percentage terms with growth of 100%. The jewellery Maisons. which represents 52% of Richemont sales. reflecting Cartier strong performance and higher rate of growth at Van Cleef & Arpels. The company's specialist watchmakers have enjoyed an excellent performance. growing at a very strong 22%. All the watch brands grew at more than 10% and now represent over a quarter of the growth sales. Equally MontBlanc has experienced double-digit growth. particularly driven by the performance of watches and leather as well as its retail network.Alfred Dunhill and Lancel sales rose effectively by 8% and 11% respectively. Hackett were sold in June 2005 and Old England was sold in March 2006. The combined sales represented around '18 million versus '53 million for the prior year. The other businesses segments now consist of Chlo'. primarily Purdey and other smaller operations.By product category. watches remain the main driver of the sales.Watches remain the main driver of the total increase in value plus '203 million followed Jewellery at plus '167 million. Jewellery growth reflects the strength of Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels as well as of contribution of cash Pasha and the successful launch of the MontBlanc seasonal jewellery line. Writing instrument rose by 10% which is quite a great result given the evolution of these market. Leather enjoyed the highest growth rate from a lower base. All the firm's Maisons involved in leather showed double-digit growth in the leather sales with a particular outstanding achievement from Chlo'.During the year. the gross margin rose by 1.6 points to 63.1% reflecting an improvement in virtually all Maisons.This increase can be attributed to 2 main factors. The good use of the company's manufacturing capacity as well as launch of new products with better margin.


Bidders closing in on AOL but not at any price

which is part of Time Warner. has appointed Citigroup to review the strategic options for the group. It is understood potential bidders have until tomorrow to indicate the seriousness of their interest.
One executive involved in weighing up an offer for AOL said: 'There's very little information in the document (provided by Citigroup). It's hard to value the business.'
Last year BSkyB. which is 38% owned by News Corporation. ultimate owner of The Sunday Times. the telecoms company. in preparation for its imminent launch of a broadband internet service. Acquiring AOL would give the satellite broadcaster a larger customer base from which to recoup its investment in network infrastructure.
BT would also be keen to add AOL customers to its existing total of 2.6m broadband users. The telecoms group is already the wholesale provider for most of AOL's 1.3m broadband customers.
Some analysts believe that BT could afford to pay '100m more than other bidders because of the savings it could make by combining call centres and from other benefits of scale.
Carphone Warehouse. O2 and Google are all unlikely to bid for AOL. Carphone Warehouse is concentrating on its own recently launched 'free' broadband service. which has already attracted 340. the mobile-phone group recently taken over by Telefonica. is constrained by the Spanish company's commitment not to make any large acquisitions before the end of next year.
Doughty Hanson is expected to take control of other group businesses. including Dextra Solutions. a distributor of phone accessories. repair specialist MPRC and Cornerstone Resourcing.


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