Time to take flight from ebookers

SurfControl swims against the tide; And Thus, a real profit came to pass

SurfControl swims against the tide

Spam is getting beyond a Monty Python joke. The battle against junk e-mail is being fought across the corporate world, and SurfControl has been a beneficiary. It develops web filtering software that numbers P&O Cruises among its anti-spam customers and (you'll be pleased to hear) keeps journalists at The Independent off the porn sites.

The explosion in customer growth is probably behind SurfControl now, although it did register a creditable 4 per cent rise in customer wins in the first quarter of its financial year. The focus now has to be on developing new filters and trying to get more out of existing customers, bundling together existing products. There was less evidence of success in these areas in yesterday's statement. It is selling few early-stage products to big companies that might incorporate the software into their products. Also, SurfControl admitted it usually has to concede profit margin to get customers to sign up to new contracts. Customer churn seems high, at between 69 and 86 per cent depending on the type of product or customer.

Areas such as mobile computing on laptop computers and BlackBerry handsets will open up new opportunities, but in anti-spam in particular, new competitors are emerging that will make life considerably tougher from here.

On around 30 times current year earnings, the shares, up 24p to 779p, are a sell.

And Thus, a real profit came to pass

Profits - the holy grail for smaller telecoms companies and an issue most skirt around - are now tantalisingly close for the Scottish group Thus.

Spun out of ScottishPower in 1999, Thus reckons it will make an operating profit around the end of next year, while the year to March 2006 should see its first real, bottom-line profit.

Thus is ticking off its targets one by one. Yesterday's six-month report showed the numbers are continuing to move in the right direction. Given market conditions remain tough and prices are still under pressure, this is a decent achievement. Losses in the half-year to 30 September narrowed to £10.2m from £30.8m in the same period a year before. Sales rose 10 per cent to £157.5m.

The only blip in the figures seemed to be the division which runs corporate call centres, where revenue fell 23 per cent to just under £10m. A big customer, Microsoft, has shut down a number of its centres. Thus has hired another 250 staff, however, and seems confident the unit is back on track.

The company is happy with analysts' forecasts of an underlying, or Ebitda, profit of about £44m this year on sales of about £330m. This column recommended the shares as a speculative buy back in May and the stock, up nearly 5 per cent at 33.75p last night, has more than doubled since then. While it remains a good long term bet, there is likely to be a pause for breath now. Hold.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Guru Careers: Pricing Analyst

£30 - 35k: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pricing Analyst to join a leading e-...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K YR1: SThree: At SThree, we like to be dif...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Did you know? SThree is a mul...

Guru Careers: C# Project Team Lead

£55 - 65k (DOE): Guru Careers: A unique opportunity for a permanent C# Develop...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor