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April 21, 1988

NCR FACES PROSPECT OF RECESSION WITH FORTITUDE; SHARE BUY-IN TO CONTINUE

By CBR Staff Writer

A very upbeat NCR Corp faced the annual meeting this week, assuring shareholders that since it has come through recent recessions in pretty order according to chairman Chuck Exley, it faces the prospect of further recession this year or next with equanimity. And although much increased business done through third party distribution channels is shrinking gross profit margins, NCR sees no need to whack up prices to meet the shortfall. If we do it right, what we lose in the gross margins we pick up in marketing and merchandising, leading to higher volume, Exley elaborated after the meeting. Earnings per share have been soaring at NCR as the company bought in its own shares, and its $600m will be used not for major acquisitions but to continue the buy-in programme. The company is also unconcerned that sluggish growth in its traditional business with retailers led to only 2% growth in 1987 to $564m, because the sluggish growth there is more than offset by soaring business from the banking and financial sector, which grew 17% to $624m in 1987. It is always a little worrying when a high-tech company starts spending its cash on its own shares, but of recent years, NCR has looked substantially the best run of the traditional mainframe companies, and as such is an attractive target for competitors that are finding growth difficult to achieve by their own efforts: the buy-in programme at least underwrites the share price and ensures that if NCR is taken out, the acquirer will have to pay top dollar for it.

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