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  1. Technology
April 4, 1988


By CBR Staff Writer

Acorn Computer Group Plc, Cambridge micromaker best known for its BBC Micro but now trying to gain a reputation for its RISC chip technology, blames a UKP2.4m loss made by its customised systems division for most of its UKP3.2m loss on turnover of UKP36.1m for the financial year ended December 31. Despite its alliance with 80% shareholder Olivetti SpA, Acorn remains very much a UK, education market-centred operation. The home market accounted for 80% of its sales with the education sector contributing 70% of total turnover. What were its other strong business and geographical markets? The company admits that it doesn’t know where else its machines are going, and is currently trying to establish which business sectors it has penetrated: it points to such areas as design-related industry and process control environments. As for overseas sales, the Commonwealth, particularly Australia which accounted for nearly 6% of turnover, seems to be its second best market. The rest of its sales are spread across Europe. Acorn says that its links with Olivetti will continue and brushes aside any suggestion that Olivetti was likely to dilute its stake. It’s Archimedes 32-bit RISC personal computer shipped during the fourth quarter and generated UKP3m of the UKP36m sales for the year and is expected to make a significant contri-bution to the company’s performance this year. The troublesome customised systems arm was closed, incurring direct closure costs of UKP300,000 and reducing Acorn’s sales force by 50 to around 230. Nearly UKP5m was spent on research and development – that’s a daunting 13.8% of turnover. It sees the reduction in overheads plus projected UKP12m sales of its Archimedes in both the education and new business niche markets will enable the company to show a profit this year. Acorn said sales of its BBC Micro Master series have remained buoyant with 190,000 machines sold since l986. Acorn will also launch a Unix-based workstation range based on the RISC later this year. By ‘levering’ its RISC technology the company is confident that it can come up with competitively priced X/Open-compliant vertical market products: The standard environment which we are moving towards is a Unix based one, Acorn managing director Harvey Coleman said. Acorn shares slumped another three pence on figures to make a new a 14 month low of 22 pence against a 75p high – and a comment in the Evening Standard that today’s announcement seems to presage further corporate restructuring that some think will amount to closure of the company can’t have helped sentiment any.

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