Cambridge, UK-based Acorn Computer Group Plc, 79%-owned by Ing C Olivetti & Co SpA, returned to profitability in the second half of 1991, following a plunge into the red at the interim stage. Pre-tax profits were nevertheless disappointing, down a steep 83% at #274,000 on turnover that dropped 10% to #41m. Trading profits fell 58% to #1.1m, after #1.5m gains last time from the sale of intellectual property rights to Advanced RISC Machines Ltd, which were partially offset by a #939,000 provision against bad debts. Included in the pre-tax figure this time is a #102,000 share of the costs associated with the set up of ARM Ltd, which is said to be doing very well for itself. Currently, Acorn and Apple Computer Inc each hold around 46% of ARM’s share capital, while VLSI Technology Inc owns around 13%. Some 20% of ARM’s share capital has, however, not yet been issued. ARM’s Tudor Brown says there is scope for more investors to be brought on board; the intention is that these will take stakes of a similar size to VLSI’s, at the same time diluting Acorn and Apple’s shareholdings. Brian Salter of Acorn says the group is currently riding on the back of its recently-won Queen’s Award for Technological Achievement for the development of the ARM 32-bit RISC; it is banking on this award to raise its profile in the UK market. Salter notes that Acorn was the first to get a working RISC to market, being therefore three to four years ahead of the competition. For the future, the group has a range of new products up its sleeve, including a portable computer, ready to be launched in the near future. He says Acorn was not affected by any of the reorganisation at Olivetti back in January (CI No 1,834). The group claims to have maintained its 53% share of the education market, with installations in 85% of UK schools.
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