Coda shares dive on pounds 2.5m interim loss

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SHARES in Coda, a software firm floated at 235p in February, yesterday plunged 54p to 168p on a pounds 2.5m pre-tax loss for the six months to April, writes Diane Coyle.

One analyst said: 'Even though they did not publish a formal profits forecast before the flotation, they have blotted their copybook in a short time.'

There was a pounds 2.9m exceptional cost for starting an employee share ownership plan. Further Esop-related charges of pounds 2.1m will be spread over the next six years.

The pre-exceptional profit before tax of pounds 308,000 compared with pounds 427,000 in the first half last year, and was well below analysts' expectations. Turnover was 11 per cent higher at pounds 13.3m. Coda declared an interim dividend of 0.5p.

Rodney Potts, chairman, said a disappointing 27 per cent decline in new licence revenues from an established Coda product for Digital's Vax computers meant the company would accelerate research and development spending on its new Open Accounting System (OAS). This is a financial software package, marketed to big companies, that can run on any computer hardware.

Coda spent pounds 3m on research and development in 1993. It expects to spend pounds 5m this year, an increase of pounds 1.5m over original plans.

It has sold the current version of OAS to 20 customers worldwide. 'We want to get more products to market faster because the opportunity is there. There is tremendous demand for open system products right now,' Mr Potts said.

Sales of software for the popular IBM AS/400 computers had also risen 60 per cent to pounds 3.7m.