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Apricot Computers Plc is returning to the ranks of the dividend payers after an absence of two years with an interim payment of 0.5p per share. The payment reflects the board’s bullish outlook for the traditionally stronger second half. In the six months to September 30, the company lifted pre-tax profits by 19.4% to UKP3m and chairman Lindsay Bury is forecasting very satisfactory trading results in the second half when the first half’s investment in new products and senior staff should begin to come through. A case in point is the Computer Systems division which is expected to produce comfortably more than last year’s UKP1.2m pre-tax despite a first half in which profits plummetted by almost 70% to a measly UKP378,000. The 80386-based Personal and VX multi-user systems were late shipping and profits from these and the halving overheads at Digital Microsystems have still to be felt on the bottom line. The maintenance and networking business, Apricot Computer Services Ltd, should also move forward strongly on the back of the demand for networking and cabling for the new products. The major profit earner in the group, however, is now Apricot Financial Systems Limited which produced pre-tax profits of UKP1.4m on sales of only UKP6.8m. In the second half, it should benefit from the porting of the Quasar investment system on to the 80836-based multi-user VX. Quasar currently runs only on the DEC VAX. A further UKP1m investment in Quasar is underway. The multi-user business is becoming serious: the company is now selling 60 to 70 Xenix systems a month. On Monday, November 16, Apricot will announce a competitor to the Radix product developed by IBM UK and the Stock Exchange, for delivery in February. Managing director Roger Foster promises that the product, Citydesk, will be a dramatic improvement on Radix both in price and in performance. According to Foster, Citydesk encapsulates the future direction of Apricot. It will be, he says, a complete solution using Apricot hardware and software. The software side of the business may be strengthened in the second half by acquisition. The company already employs 100 of its 140 research and development staff on software. Apricot’s last failed – attempt at acquisition, Wordplex Information Systems, cost it UKP670,000 and appears in the interim figures as an extraordinary item. Apricot has also taken a UKP63,000 loss on its share in Barson Computers Australasia Ltd. Any future purchase is likely to be a smaller outfit than Wordplex and will probably be for cash. Apricot currently has UKP7.3m in its coffers and expects that sum to improve rapidly in the second half. The French subsidiary lost UKP188,000 in the first half but is slated to break even in the second. Other overseas sales are moving ahead. Chase Manhattan Securities has raised its forecast for the full year by UKP500,000 to UKP9m pre-tax. The company’s shares ended yesterday up ninepence at 94p.

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CBR Staff Writer

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