Anite reveals pounds 600,000 pay-off for former chief as losses triple

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Anite, the data communications and software group, yesterday reported a near tripling of pre-tax losses to pounds 50.4m in the year to April after taking a pounds 32.2m hit on surplus properties. Despite last year's profits warning and this property legacy, Anite disclosed that Jon Richards, who resigned as chief executive in March, could be paid up to pounds 600,000 in compensation - more than twice his salary of pounds 250,000 last year.

According to Anite, formerly known as Cray Electronics, Mr Richards agreed to resign on condition he would receive pounds 267,000 up front and further payments if he had not found another job by September next year. Anite has short-listed two candidates to replace Mr Richards, both from the information technology sector, and expects to make an announcement in the next few weeks.

Analysts said the size of the property provision was a surprise. Ross Jobber at UBS said: "They've got some pretty horrendous lease obligations."

Simon Hunt, finance director of Anite, said the provision covered sale and leaseback and other rental obligations struck under the previous management on 34 buildings in the South of England. "Some of these property deals were done to raise money. Some buildings were kept to make businesses saleable. This has been an onerous burden," said Mr Hunt.

However, he said that the impact on cash would diminish. Rent and occupancy costs will reduce from pounds 5.6m in 1997/8 to pounds 3m the following year and pounds 2m the year after.

Alec Daly, chairman, said uncertainty over the group's financial position had lost orders in Anite's core software systems business, which reported flat sales in the year to April at pounds 77m, with profits ahead 28 per cent to pounds 6m. Mr Daly said: "Over the last couple of years we've not been the best home in the world for our customers."

However, he said that things had materially changed since the full year. "We've got the best order book we've had for some time - up 10 per cent, which is in line with the market."