Symbian poaches Psion chief in readiness for share offer

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The Independent Online

Symbian, the technology company owned by Psion and the world's major mobile phone makers, yesterday poached Psion's chief executive to be its new boss as it emerged Symbian was in talks to license its technology to Samsung.

David Levin, who has been Psion's chief executive since February 1999, takes up the equivalent role at Symbian on 8 April to help prime the company for its long-awaited stock market flotation.

He replaces Colly Myers, who stepped down from the position last month, and joins Mr Myers' half-brother David Potter, who is Symbian's chairman as well as the founder and chairman of Psion.

Mr Levin's move came as Psion reported a 2001 pre-tax loss of £149.5m, after heavy goodwill write-downs, compared with an £8.1m loss a year earlier.

"Clearly the results are extremely poor and, in our 21-year history, they are the [company's] most disappointing," Mr Potter said.

After a restructuring last year, which saw Psion pull out of the handheld computer market, the company is left with its core Teklogix business, its 28.1 per cent stake in Symbian and a small software business.

Ian McElroy, who is running Teklogix, whose technology helps factories to manage their supply chains, is to take over as chief executive of Psion.

Psion warned yesterday, however, that Teklogix's markets remained "subdued" but said the outlook was for a "gradual" improvement in demand. Shares in Psion closed down 4 per cent at 87p.

The Teklogix business recorded a £9.6m operating profit before exceptional items in 2001, up from a £5.8m profit a year before. Sales were £127.2m, up from £64.1m.

Mr Potter said: "I think we're established on a new smaller, stable basis. Our job ahead is to build securely on that. Our competition has seen material declines in their sales and so our market share has actually increased."

He also confirmedSymbian was likely to carry out one more round of funding before floating. "My opinion is that it [Symbian] will need a further funding round and that should see us through [2002]. If volumes are achieved, as I think they will be, then hopefully the IPO will go ahead," Mr Potter said.

Psion and its shareholders have said Symbian will only be floated once stock market conditions have improved and once its technology, which is built into mobile phones, is selling in large volumes.