Anite chief executive ousted after warning

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The Independent Online

The IT consultancy and services group Anite yesterday ousted its chief executive as it warned that markets continued to be difficult and that this year's profits would be at the lower end of expectations.

"Markets remain very tough with no immediate signs of improvement," its chairman, Alec Daly, said. "The focus will be on organic growth, tightly managing the continuing businesses and working to position the group for recovery." Shares in Anite closed down 0.5p at 28p.

The grim prognosis was given as the company announced it had ousted its chief executive, John Hawkins, who had been with the business since November 1997. Under his direction, Anite was forced to renegotiate a string of acquisitions where earn-out clauses left it exposed to a raft of extra fees.

Anite said David Thorpe, a non-executive director since June last year, would take on the chief executive role until a replacement for Mr Hawkins had been found.

"Two major issues, namely the earn-out renegotiations and the appointment of a new finance director, have now been resolved in January and February respectively," Mr Daly said.

Anite said underlying pre-tax profits would be at the lower end of expectations - dented by tough conditions and higher research and development costs. Net debt is forecast at £16m, after paying out £27.6m to cover earn-out arrangements.