French IT manufacturer Groupe Bull reported a lackluster performance for 1998 last week, with net profits falling 2.4% on revenues which were up just 1.4%. The group cited the turmoil emanating from first the Asian then the Russian crises as negative factors, as well as the costs involved in ceasing PC assembly in Brazil. The only bright spot, in fact, was the increase in the company’s revenues from IT services, which were up 7.4% and in fact were the sole reason the overall total showed some positive growth, albeit meager. The performance was certainly a disappointing one, considering that the company had set itself a target of over a billion francs of net income and ended up with just two-thirds of that total, while its operating margin, at 2.7%, plummeted from the previous year’s 4%. Part of the reduced results has to do with lower revenues from exceptionals, which were down at $33m last year, compared to $60m in 1997. That item should increase again in 1999, say analysts, as the company will be accounting for exceptional revenues from the sale of its Ingenico EFTPOS terminals business to De La Rue Plc of the UK. CEO Guy de Panafieu came into the business in October 1997, since when he has been carrying out considerable restructuring. However, he does not expect to reap the benefits just yet. We’ll only see the benefits of these efforts in 2000, he told the French business daily Les Echos on Friday.