Trafficmaster shares hit by profit warning

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The Independent Online

Shares in Trafficmaster, which provides traffic information collected from its roadside cameras, collapsed yesterday after it shocked the market with its second profit warning in the space of just seven months.

The company, run by chief executive David Martell, blamed much of the alert on the costs associated with its decision to pull out of the so-called fleet management market, where its technology is used to monitor a company's fleet of vehicles.

Pre-tax losses for 2001, it said, would now be more like £16.4m, including £1.4m of costs relating to the rationalisation of the Fleetstar fleet management business, but excluding some £3m to £5m of other write-offs.

Analysts had been expecting losses for the year of anywhere between £9m and £12.5m, and its shares fell 34 per cent to 32.5p, making it one of the worst performing stocks on the market. At the peak of the internet boom, its shares traded as high as £11.39.

The company also warned revenues for the year would be "slightly" below consensus estimates of £27m to £33m at around £31.5m.

"In view of the increasingly competitive European market for fleet management products, Trafficmaster has taken the decision to withdraw from direct participation in this market to focus on its core traffic information business," it said.

The Fleetstar business in Italy has been folded into its joint venture with Fiat while the UK arm could well be bought out by the management team.