Computacenter amasses pounds 76m warchest to go on buying spree

THE COMPUTER services supplier Computacenter has amassed a pounds 76m "war chest" to fund acquisitions in the UK and Europe and plans to create up to 1,500 jobs over the next two years.

The company wants to use the cash, much of which comes from the sale and leaseback of its headquarters building in Hatfield, Hertfordshire, to invest in the growing market of outsourced computer servicing contracts. The news came as the the company's shares ended a rollercoaster day, up 9 per cent on the back of a 30 per cent rise in interim pre-tax profits to pounds 40.7m, and an upbeat presentation to analysts. The shares, which closed at 565p, are still well short of the 660p floatation price of May 1998.

Although the company said that no bid activity is on the horizon, Computacenter chief executive Mike Norris said: "We are keen to get bigger in the UK, France and Germany. We would rather do it organically but if it is not quick enough we will look at acquisitions."

The shares initially fell on fears the millennium bug would put a dent in corporate purchases of computer equipment and software in the final quarter of the year. But as the message hit home that the next two years could prove a bonanza for the IT services sector, buyers emerged in force, sending the company to the top of the FTSE 250 performance charts.

This year, the company won contracts to supply PCs to Smithkline Beecham, Parliament and Royal and Sun Alliance. It also renewed a pounds 50m-a-year contract with BT.

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