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Persona Group Plc has expanded quite well without the anticipated acquisitions thus far, and a similar level of growth is expected in the second half. The Chessington, Surrey-based networking products, training and computer consultancy group reported interim pre-tax profits up 34% to ú1.4m from turnover up a healthy 65% to ú24.8m. The main networking products division has added five new suppliers in the half, including Internet access software from FTP Software Inc. The other new suppliers since the year-end are Wellfleet Communications Inc, Wall Data Inc, Intel Corp and Palindrome Corp. Persona also distributes networking products from what it regards as the big three, 3Com Corp, Cisco Systems Inc and Bay Networks Inc. The small consultancy business is most effective in generating customer loyalty, rather than significant revenues, according to the company. Faculty, the training division has made great strides with its tuition in Microsoft Corp’s products, but Novell Inc training still dominates. Faculty opened a central London office at the start of the year and was said by chairman Wayne Channon to have had a toe in the water in Manchester at the year-end (CI No 2,621). The temperature of the water obviously was not quite right as Manchester has been abandoned in favour of other areas in the north, but finance director Dick Haynes would not be more specific. Persona is pretty heavily geared, even for a distributor, at around 210%, although Haynes expressed himself satisfied with the rate at the moment. Cash at the half-way stage stood at ú757,000. Acquisitions are most likely in the training sector as buying another distributor is not on the agenda and buying a supplier would upset the others. Channon confirmed in his statement that the firm has its eyes open for suitable targets, adding that they would be evaluated on sound economic and strategic criteria predictably enough. Channon also said that there was substantial room for expansion in the training division. Persona shares were up 21 pence at 254 pence by late yesterday. The interim dividend of 1.44 pence compares to one of a notional 1.29 pence last time.

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