Bottom Line: Sema scores high

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The Independent Online
SEMA, the Anglo-French computer systems company, pleased the stock market with a 28 per cent rise in 1993 profits. Although turnover of more than pounds 500m makes it the European market leader, Sema has had a relatively low profile because most of the shares are in the hands of a few big investors. This could change with the possibility that a competitor, Cap Gemini Sogeti, will have to sell its hostile 28 per cent stake.

A rise of 26 per cent in earnings in 1993, following a 20 per cent increase the previous year, makes Sema an interesting prospect.

The growth stems from its expertise in big and complicated information technology projects. Recent successes have included the Channel Tunnel traffic management system, the Barcelona Olympics reservation system and the equivalent system for this year's football World Cup. The complexity of such projects makes a solid reputation important - and tends to bring repeat business.

The company is also concentrating on technical markets where its expertise gives it another advantage. Its fastest-growing areas of business are defence, energy and transport. Few of Sema's competitors can install control systems for a nuclear power station, for example.

Brokers' forecasts for 1994's pre- tax profits cluster around pounds 30m, compared with 1993's pounds 25m before tax and exceptionals. And the historic price-earnings ratio at 22.4 puts Sema on a modest rating for the computer sector.