With an estimated 80% of the world’s most important corporate data still sitting on mainframe computers, Cobol specialist Micro Focus Plc is trying to cash in on the rapidly expanding market for moving Cobol applications onto the web. The company is currently undergoing something of a renaissance. Having made hefty losses through its last two financial years, Micro Focus has just reported net profits of $3.8m for its third quarter to October 31 on revenue that rose 45% at $41.0m. And the shares, the majority of which are traded in London, shot up 5% to 2135 pence. Expect a share split shortly. Micro Focus sells a range of products for Cobol application development and it wants to help its blue chip client base bridge the gap between their old mainframe systems and the modern world of distributed computing. The company now has big revenue streams from its Year 2000 conversion tools and expects even better business once the Euro bandwagon really begins to roll, but chief executive officer Martin Waters is more excited about his new mainframe to internet product, Netexpress. The idea is to take data from existing business systems, written in Cobol, which is then recompiled to run on web servers, making the information available over the internet or corporate intranets. One of the first to jump at the chance was Metropolitan Life, one of the biggest insurance companies in the US. Micro Focus helped it to take its old Cobol code for calculating insurance premiums from the mainframe environment and recompiled it over a couple of days to run on an internet-based insurance quotation service. Where applicable, Micro Focus says it can do the transition at a fraction of the cost of writing web applications from scratch. Revenues at Micro Focus have been growing rapidly for the last three quarters and fourth quarter order levels are at an all time high of $150m. The London and Nasdaq listed company does not pay a dividend.
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