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06 Mar, 2008

By Matthew Goodburn | 13:05:16 | 06 March 2008

Racecourse operator Arena Leisure PLC (ARE grew its pre-tax profits by 6.9% to £6 million in 2007 and predicted good progress for the group in 2008.

The AIM listed stock has been well held in the UK retail space and currently comprises 1.56% of New Star joint chief investment officer Stephen Whittaker's New Star UK Growth fund New Star UK Growth Ret

Citywire sources indicate on 20 February Artemis's smaller companies manager John Dodd owned 2.5 million shares or 0.69% of the stock in his Artemis Alpha Investment Trust.

Until recently it was also a key holding in Nick Brind's New Star Investment Trust, one of the few individual stock holdings in the vehicle, which contains a proportion of New Star employees' investments and a large part of chairman John Duffield's wealth.

Arena, which stages around one quarter of the UK's horse racing, boosted its revenues by 28% to 57.9 million, primarily due to the reopening of Doncaster Racecourse and the creation of a new catering business.

Chief executive Mark Elliott said he was 'delighted' the group had produced in line results despite last summer's wet weather causing a record number of cancellations and said the board was optimistic Arena would continue to make good progress in 2008.

He added: 'Arena made significant progress with each of the strategically important developments that will yield value in the coming years, in particular the re-opening of Doncaster Racecourse, the creation of a catering business and the receipt of planning permission for hotels at Doncaster, Wolverhampton and Lingfield Park.'

Broker Landsbanki retained its 'buy' rating for the company describing its update as 'positive' and adding that it was in a unique position to exploit the development potential and earnings growth potential of UK horse racing.

KBC Peel Hunt noted the group had done well to achieve a £6 million insurance settlement following flooding at the Southwell track last summer.

At 12:50 am shares in the group were trading down 3.24% or 1.75p at 52.25p.

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