Gloomy days cast shadow over Getmapping's prospects

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The Independent Online

Dark clouds obscured the allure of Getmapping.com yesterday, as its shares lost almost half their value on the news that the aerial photography business, in which the Queen has a 1.5 per cent stake, has been hit by poor flying conditions.

Dark clouds obscured the allure of Getmapping.com yesterday, as its shares lost almost half their value on the news that the aerial photography business, in which the Queen has a 1.5 per cent stake, has been hit by poor flying conditions.

The company, which is piecing together an online photographic "Millennium Map" of the whole of the UK, said in its interim results that technical problems with its website and cloudy weather had delayed the launch of its product. This restricted sales to £428,000 for the six months to 30 June, while losses hit £695,000..

The AIM-quoted company's house broker, Peel Hunt, yesterday cut its full-year revenue forecast from £3m to £1m. Getmapping shares dived 47 per cent to 53.5p on the disappointing figures. The company floated in April at 200p. Tristram Cary, chief executive, said: "This year was probably the worst year for flying in the history of aerial photography. There was not a single clear day. August, which should be the clearest month, was a wash-out. I think this is a global warming thing."

The company had planned to finish its aerial map of the UK this year. While 95 per cent of England has been photographed and three-quarters of Wales has been done, just 10 per cent of Scotland and 11 per cent of Northern Ireland is complete.

Mr Cary said that it now expected to complete UK coverage by the end of 2001. The photographs are put on the website as they are completed.

The company has also had difficulties loading the data on to the website, which did not come onstream until July. Just 15 photographs a day are now sold online.

During the half-year, sales consisted of £300,000 from its version of the Domesday Book, a physical reprint illustrated by aerial photographs, and £128,000 from other map products.

The company yesterday also announced the £652,000 cash purchase of Wildgoose Publications, the aerial photography company which processes Getmapping's images and turns them into seamless map-accurate photomaps.

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