AIT bucks trend with 40% rise in profits

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The Independent Online

AIT, the financial services software group, defied the IT slowdown yesterday with an upbeat outlook after it posted a 40 per cent rise in full-year, pre-tax profits, well ahead of expectations.

Shares in the group, which makes software to manage customer relations for financial companies, leapt 10 per cent to 822.5p after it said expenditure remained "buoyant in the retail financial services sector" and the "order book remained healthy". Tom Crawford, the chief operating and financial officer, said: "The retail financial services market haven't suffered as much as other parts of the market, such as investment banking. Customer interaction remains at the top of [retail banks'] spend lists so they will cut back on other types of investment first." AIT's clients include Alliance & Leicester, Marks & Spencer, NatWest and Bradford & Bingley.

In the 12 months to 31 March, pre-tax profits increased 40 per cent to £5.1m on sales that were up 56 per cent to £33.9m, from £21.7m. In February, the company launched Portrait, its new customer relationship management product ahead of schedule, which Chris Pitcher, an analyst at UBS Warburg said "should drive growth growing forward".

The development and launch costs for Portrait were included in the year's results, which pushed operating margins 2 per cent lower to 14.8 per cent. Mr Crawford said: "We are very confident that Portrait will be successful ­ we already have one contract and are seeing it on lots of other shortlists, which is very encouraging given that it was only launched three months ago."