Maid seeks role in digital TV revolution

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The Independent Online
Maid, the electronic information group, is aiming for a slice of the action in the digital television revolution by talking to key broadcasters about providing them with its software which is designed to sort and manage information.

The company is understood to have been in touch with the big players in the digital television industry, including British Interactive Broadcasting, the interactive television company owned by BSkyB, BT, Matsushita and Midland Bank. Maid hopes broadcasters will use its InfoSort search technology to enable consumers to sort and personalise information in an interactive environment. InfoSort is an automated search system that files and organises material online.

BIB, formed earlier this year, will allow viewers to access and use a variety of services including home shopping, banking and leisure activities.

Dan Wagner, the company's founder and chief executive, announced results for the six months to the end of June roughly in line with expectations. Maid reported a pre-tax profit of pounds 2m against a loss of pounds 3.9m the year before. However, the figures were flattered by the sale of a hotel Internet business to the US Internet access provider, 4th Communications Network.

Excluding exceptional credits, Maid made a pre-tax loss of pounds 1.7m, although Mr Wagner said the company was still on track to make a genuine profit for the full year: "The trend continues in the right direction towards profitability," he added.

Mr Wagner, who has an 18 per cent stake in the company, added that Maid would continue with its strategy of forming alliances with big players such as Microsoft and CompuServe to "dominate the market for retrieval of electronic business".

A product developed by Maid for CompuServe in the US, which gives the business community stock prices and company profiles, would be launched in the UK later this year, the company said. More details of a project with IBM are also due to be announced in the next few months.

Shares in Maid fell 5.5p to close at 209.5p, in part as a response to analysts' concerns that the churn rate - when customers fail to renew subscriptions - had gone up. One analyst said that while joint ventures were picking up, the core business was losing momentum.

Maid announced that it had acquired a 70 per cent stake in Muscat, a company which owns information retrieval technology, for pounds 5.6m.

Muscat, based in Cambridge, will enable Maid's InfoSort technology to be installed on personal computers, and will enhance searching capabilities for a variety of Maid products. Muscat's clients include Virgin.Net, Cascade Systems, the BBC and Reuters.