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Last Updated: Friday, 27 February, 2004, 08:49 GMT
Hard Rock blues knock Rank Group
Hard Rock Cafe logo
Hard times for Hard Rock
Leisure group Rank has reported a drop in annual profits amid tough trading at its Hard Rock themed cafes.

But the UK company, which also runs Grosvenor casinos, Mecca bingo and a film a video processing business, said it was upbeat about the current year.

Pre-tax profits before exceptional items fell 4% to 193.7m ($360.6m) in 2003, Rank said.

The group said its main focus for 2004 would be on gaming, where opportunities for development remained greatest.

'Strong position'

Operating profit at the group's Hard Rock chain fell 16% to 23.1m, hit by a prolonged downturn in international travel.

But Rank's gaming division fared better, where operating profits rose 12% to 117.2m as regional casinos offset a flatter performance at the company's bingo halls.

Proposed changes in the UK to regulations in the sector "could be significant", Rank said.

The group said its strong position in the betting and gaming market left it "well placed to benefit from the proposed changes".

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