Investment Column: Brief fling is over for Computacenter
Friday 21 August 1998
On the face of it, this looks harsh. In the six months to June profits jumped 42 per cent on a 39 per cent increase in revenues. The French business did especially well. And Computacenter picked up new contracts with the likes of the Post Office and the Automobile Association.
However, a number of one-off factors swelled the figures. A new licensing deal from Microsoft provided a one-off boost to sales. A huge government supply contract contributed revenues of pounds 50m in the first half, but second- half sales will probably be about pounds 10m. Meanwhile, a French competitor's financial troubles allowed Computacenter's subsidiary there to lift sales by 63 per cent.
The company's dependence on reselling computer hardware remains a worry, especially given the success of direct-sales specialists such as Dell. Products account for about 80 per cent of revenues, with services making up the difference. While Computacenter's model of offering a one-stop shop comprising everything from planning to maintenance is compelling, it will provide little shelter if personal computer prices continue to plunge.
Albert E Sharp, the stockbroker, forecasts full-year profits of pounds 58.9m, producing a forward earnings multiple of 32. Computacenter is a solid, well-run business. But until it can show more evidence of growing service revenues - such as through its mooted electronic commerce consultancy - the shares are no more than a hold.
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