David McErlain, chairman, attributed the better results to a four-year programme, begun in 1989, to improve service and take market share. He estimates that Southern still commands only 5 per cent of a fragmented market. Because Southern owns its copiers, sales were not held back by cautious finance companies.
Since September the market has remained 'tough and highly competitive' but, despite a slowing in the rate of growth, Southern's finance director, Roger Limpenny, expects sales to grow 10 per cent this year.
Southern has contracts in place worth pounds 313m compared with pounds 298m a year ago, equivalent to six years' turnover. Last year sales were 12 per cent higher at pounds 57.2m. Earnings per share were 5 per cent better at 10.6p and the dividend was increased by 15 per cent to 3.38p net.
Southern's shares added 4p to 115p, almost their highest level since bad publicity in 1990 about the company's accounting policies and selling methods sent the shares tumbling from a high of 142p to a low of 52p.Reuse content