Investment Column: Admiral

ADMIRAL, THE IT consultants, revealed why it issued a profit warning earlier this year as it posted interim pre-tax profits up a mere 7 per cent - that's disappointing in this sector - for the first half of this year. Unlike other IT consultants, it does not specialise in writing its speciality software but delivers solutions based on commercially available packages. It is essentially a people business, differentiating itself from rivals such as Logica, Sema and CMG, by providing advisers who talk the language both of finance directors and of computer nerds.

Admiral's credibility as a manager of people has taken a dent, however. It misjudged the number of staff who might quit this year, so new recruits found themselves with nothing to do. The company says it has learnt from its mistakes, and staff turnover has recently been at anticipated levels. Meanwhile, it's investing over pounds 3m in the next couple of years in systems to facilitate greater knowledge sharing within the organisation.

Granville, the broker, expects pre-tax profits of pounds 25.9m and earnings of 26.6p per share this year, rising to pounds 33.4m and 34.2p in the next. The shares fell 61p to 751.5p yesterday, putting the shares on a forward p/e of 22 in 2001, compared with the sector's 33. If Admiral really has sorted its problems out, the shares are a buy.

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