E-commerce drives profits boom at ECsoft

THE GROWTH of electronic commerce and Internet use by business and industry has fuelled a profits bonanza at ECsoft, a fledgling computer consultancy group floated on the stock market only last year.

Full-year profits more than doubled to pounds 8.1m and the workforce has mushroomed from 101 in 1997 to almost 800. The company said: "In the course of the year we experienced an increasing trend towards electronic commerce, with Internet access becoming prerequisite for many customer projects."

The profit growth contrasts the experience of many "go-go" Net commerce stocks, such as Amazon.com, which are enjoying huge sales booms but have yet to earn a penny in profit.

ECsoft specialises in the provision of computer solutions to businesses. These include e-commerce solutions and Internet access.

Recent contracts have included an Internet banking system for a Scandinavian bank, and a new Internet booking systems for a cruise liner which allows the operator to by-pass travel agents. Clients include BT, Esso and Unisys.

Another productive area for the company has been the provision of data warehousing systems enabling retailers to analyse buying patterns of customers who have loyalty cards.

To help support its growth, ECsoft has recruited the e-commerce team from Digital, the computer group.

The bumper profits pushed ECsoft shares up by 52.5p to a new high of 2,192.5p, valuing the company at pounds 250m. The company is expected to acquire other software businesses in France and the Benelux region as well as smaller firms in the UK and Scandinavia.

ECsoft said it had not focused too strongly on Year 2000 compliance work, which it says currently accounts for about 10 per cent of its total sales. Group sales rose by 41 per cent to reach pounds 62.2m.