Category: News

Apogee presses into Ireland

history-of-print-16th-century-printing-companyManaged print player Apogee has written a check for an Irish firm to add to the Scottish, Welsh and German businesses it has already collected this year.

In January Apogee’s joint CEO Jason Collins said: “Apogee will continue to grow its UK business in 2016 through organic growth and further acquisitions of organisations in the range of £1 million to £50 million turnover.”

The outfit has  bought Welsh firm Kon-x in April and last month bought Scottish print and copy specialist Direct Business Systems.The DBS deal gave the firm a larger footprint North of the border and and now it has bought Hibernian Business Equipment in a bid to break into the Irish market.

Hibernian is a print management outfit with offices in Limerick, Dublin and Galway. Its main focus is government departments. Hibernian’s founder Gerald Wall will continue to lead the Irish business.

Hibernian managing director Wall said that being part of a larger group gave it the chance to compete for larger deals.

Sophos improves revenue but makes more losses

sophos-HQUK insecurity outfit  Sophos today reported its interim results which showed that while revenues continued to rise, losses also widened.

Revenue increased to $256.96 million in the six months, up from $234.2 million in the same period last year. Sophos said its billings were up 15 percent while new customer billings were up 20 percent.

That still meant that it had an operating loss of $24.6 million which was an increase from $13.4 million from last year.

Sophos blamed the increased losses on investment into R&D, as well as a continued shift towards subscription-based billing.

Investors appeared largely satisfied first six months of results. The share price crept up by one percent today to 235 pence per share.

Kris Hagerman, chief executive officer said that he was pleased with Sophos’ first half results. They were in-line with Sophos’ outlook, and he was especially pleased with our cash flow performance which was ahead.

“As we enter the second half of the fiscal year we expect continued strong growth, as we benefit from key new product releases in next-generation endpoint and next-generation firewall, and the continued momentum of our Sophos Central cloud management platform,” Hagerman said.

For the year-ending 31 March 2017, the firm said that it expects to deliver mid-teens revenue growth whilst delivering ‘modest’ cash EBITDA margin expansion.



“Superfast broadband” sent to Coventry

Coventry at dawn

The Coventry City Council said that the next phase of its roll-out of “superfast broadband” around the region will be supported by £15 million worth of grants and aims to extend the network coverage to a further 8,000 local homes and businesses.

Regional state aid supported CSW Broadband project, which is mostly based around Openreach’s FTTC/P technology. It has already put superfast connectivity within reach of over 90 per cent  of premises in Warwickshire, Solihull and Coventry. Work has also begun on a second phase that will aim to achieve “nearly” 94 per cent coverage of the same area by the end of 2017.

More than 334 new street cabinets have so far been installed and 53,000+ premises have benefited.

Attention is now being turned to a future Phase Three contract, which is set to be supported by a public investment of £2.55 million from the city council, another £2.55 million from the European Regional Development Fund, £4.3 million from the local Growth Deal and £1.1 million worth of private sector funds.

More than £15 million is eventually predicted to become available for the next phase, which will seek to reach an additional 8,000+ premises on top of the existing target. One-off corporate funding of £150,000 will also be invested in order to project manage the Council’s investment and work as part of CSW Broadband.



Redcentric CFO quits over botched accounts scandal

364z280_redcentric_tcManaged services outfit Redcentric is in the centre of a multi-year accounting scandal which has already claimed the scalp of its top numbers bloke.

In a statement Redcentric said that CFO Tim Coleman was placed on garden leave and resigned with immediate effect as a director of the company on 6 November.

“The board anticipates making an external interim appointment as a replacement CFO,” the firm said. But there is a small matter of the discovery of a £10 million hole in the company accounts to sort out.

Redcentric confirmed it had identified “misstated accounting balances” in the P&L accounts when reviewing results for the half-year ended 30 September and had embarked on a “forensic review” that will delay the 14 November publication date of those results.

“The work to date has identified that audited accounts for previous years are likely to need to be restated, resulting in some write down in historic profits. Current indications are that all issues related to prior periods,” it stated.

Apparently, the numbers for the first six months of fiscal ’17 do not indicate any mistakes or wrongdoing, with new business sales and recognition of those sales into revenue “in line” with management’s expectations.

“The board believes from the information available to date that the impact of correcting these cumulative historic accounting misstatement would result in a need to reduce net assets by at least £10m,” the company statement added.

Now it seems that the company is sitting on a net debt closer to £30million and the group’s banking covenants will need to be re-calculated, “which will take some time to complete”, Redcentric revealed.

Redcentric was created in 2013 by the merger of Redstone and Maxima’s managed services business, and was supplemented by the slurp of InTechnology and the takeover of Calyx Managed Services.

Cloud suppliers promise not to harm customers

lightning-cloudThe UK Competition and Markets Authority has managed to get a promise from BT, Dropbox, Google and Mozy that they will not try to screw over cloudy punters with dodgy terms and conditions.

Apparently the four were compelled to take the pledge after the CMA started peering into cloud service providers’ contract terms and tutting that they discriminated against consumers.

After making its pledge, BT had promised that “free accounts will not be terminated due to inactivity during the first 365 days of the contract”. It has also promised to give 90 days’ notice in writing when it wants to zap unused cloud backup accounts. It also “agreed to amend” its terms and conditions, which at present give it the right to unilaterally change prices on a whim.

Dropbox has promised not to kill customers’ accounts without notice. Apparently that right existed in the terms and conditions and no one spotted it.

Google has agreed to “ensure consumers are given an opportunity to remedy their breaches” before terminating their accounts, as well as giving 30 days’ notice of a price increase “or storage plan decrease”.

The search engine outfit will now ensure that consumers can bring legal proceedings in their local courts and under their local laws if it breaks the terms of its own contract

Mozy, which provides Windows and Mac OS X backup services, made much the same promises as BT and Dropbox.


Vodafone flogs its fixed-line operations in the Netherlands

Vodafone’s Dutch subsidiary has flogged off its fixed-line operations to Deutsche Telekom subsidiary T-Mobile Nederland.

More than 150,000 customers will be finding themselves with German overlords as part of the deal. It is not clear how much money changed hands in the sell off.

The whole thing is a sop to European Union watchdogs who otherwise would not be so keen on letting the much larger merger of Vodafone’s Dutch operations with Liberty Global’s Dutch subsidiary Ziggo go through.

Vodafone is the second-largest mobile provider in the Netherlands, while Ziggo is the biggest cable company so owning fixed lines would be a monopoly too far as far as the EU is concerned. Particularly as the pair will form a strong competitor to KPN, the former Dutch state telecommunications company.

The telecommunications industry is undergoing a period of consolidation in Europe making for a rapid shake-up of the sort of services suppliers can offer. Dubbed “market repair” by analysts there are moves to consolidate in countries such as France, Italy and the UK. The big idea is that it will be the best way for big companies to generate the billions of euros required to invest in next-generation networks.

On the other side stand antitrust regulators such as Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s competition commissioner, and the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority. They are firm proponents of the view that national telecoms markets in Europe benefit from having four operators. In their critics’ eyes, I suppose this makes them champions of market disrepair.

Broadcom buys Brocade

broadcom_logoChipmaker Broadcom is writing a $5.9 billion cheque for networking systems supplier Brocade.

Broadcom said that it will be an all-cash transaction for a total of $5.5 billion, plus $400 million of net debt. Brocade’s board of directors has approved the deal and Broadcom expects to complete the acquisition in the second half of its fiscal 2017.

Broadcom said it would retain Brocade’s fibre channel SAN switching business and divest Brocade’s IP networking business – including the recently acquired Ruckus Wireless.

Hock Tan, president and CEO of Broadcom said the deal enhances Broadcom’s position as one of the leading providers of enterprise storage connectivity solutions to OEM customers.

“With deep expertise in mission-critical storage networking, Brocade increases our ability to address the evolving needs of our OEM customers. In addition, we are confident that we will find a great home for Brocade’s valuable IP networking business that will best position that business for its next phase of growth.”

Broadcom said the deal does not depend on Brocade’s off-loading its IP networking business.

Lloyd Carney, Chief Executive Officer of Brocade, in a statement that the transaction represents significant value for our shareholders and creates new opportunities for our customers and partners.

“Our FC SAN solutions will help Broadcom create one of the industry’s broadest portfolios for enterprise storage. We will work with Broadcom as it seeks to find a buyer for our IP networking business, which includes a full portfolio of open, hardware and software-based solutions spanning the core of the data center to the network edge.”

Brocade, just completed its $1.2 billion acquisition of wireless vendor Ruckus Wireless in May. Brocade reported $2.26 billion in revenue in fiscal 2015. It just closed its fiscal 2016 on Monday and has not yet reported results for its fourth quarter and full fiscal 2016.

Broadcom said Brocade’s fibre channel SAN business would contribute approximately $900 million of pro forma non-GAAP EBITDA earnings in its fiscal 2018.

HPE and Mirantis lay off OpenStack developers

grandpa_simpson_yelling_at_cloudThe former maker of expensive printer ink HPE and Mirantis have laid off roughly 200 OpenStack developers in what is a swift kick in the open saucy project’s development.

For those that came in late, OpenStack is the open source project for cloud computing infrastructure which was supposed to be the next big thing for suppliers trying to create customer projects.

HPE is busy gutting itself so that it focuses on supply chain productivity, discretionary spending and efforts to reshape the workforce. OpenStack was not really that useful for that cunning plan.

The mid-October layoff included at least 65 people from HPE’s Stackato group, which is in the process of being sold to Micro Focus International’s SUSE. In total, given the changes at the Yehud center and across the whole organization at least 100 HPE OpenStack engineers have cleaned out their desks.

That would be suitably grim but Mirantis appears to have done something similar. Mirantis co-founder and chief marketing officer Boris Renski said that his outfit restructured following the acquisition of TCP Cloud.

This meant that Mirantis wound down a number of engineering investments that it didn’t feel were aligned with its new focus of delivering an operations-centric OpenStack distribution through a build-operate-transfer model, Reknski said.

Renski said about 100 OpenStack Developers were laid off and another hundred or so were moved about.

Staff which seemed to have been packing their bags were those involved in a deployment and management tool for OpenStack, and the Workloads team who were trying to build a PaaS product.

Renski pointed out that his outfit was not abandoning OpenStack or exiting OpenStack distribution business.

However, Stackalytics, a website that tracks OpenStack community contributions, shows that OpenStack interest seems to be declining. HPE and  Mirantis were important players to the project.

Cheap tablets killing the sector


cheap-tabletsBeancounters at IDC claim that a flood of cheap tablets are killing off an already dying technology branch.

In a new report, IDC said that 43 million tablets shipped in Q3 2016 but that figure was actually the bad news.  The overall market declined 14.3 percent year-on-year, because of poor sales at the top end of the market. Basically consumers switching to cheap tablets with lower margins.

While there is a .8 percent quarter-on-quarter increase in shipments as vendors get ready for the holiday quarter. the market’s pants.

Amazon with its Fire tablets were the only tablets to see significant growth.  These were up 320 percent year-on-year but still only taking 7.3 percent of the market. Huawei sales increased 28.4 percent to 5.6 percent of the market.

Apple’s shipments fell 6.2 percent and Lenovo was down 10.8 percent. Samsung fell 19.3 percent.

Vendor 3Q16 Unit Shipments 3Q16 Market Share 3Q15 Unit Shipments 3Q15 Market Share Year-Over-Year Growth
Apple 9.3 21.50% 9.9 19.60% -6.20%
Samsung 6.5 15.10% 8.1 16.00% -19.30%
Amazon 3.1 7.30% 0.8 1.50% 319.90%
Lenovo 2.7 6.30% 3.1 6.00% -10.80%
Huawei 2.4 5.60% 1.9 3.70% 28.40%
Others 19 44.20% 26.9 53.20% -29.20%
Total 43 100.00% 50.5 100.00% -14.70%

IDC senior research analyst Jitesh Ubrani said that they -$200 tablets were spoiling the market for everyone.

He said that the “The race to the bottom is something we have already experienced with slates and it may prove detrimental to the market in the long run as detachables could easily be seen as disposable devices rather than potential PC replacements”

Department for Work and Pensions purging monster projects

dont-ignore-workplace-pensions-large_transkp2xaqpd1krf0u2yohg6we4d6c4a3w2q2xczuap8nk0The Department for Work and Pensions is “reviewing” shedloads of digital and technology projects, but denies the reason is a budget overspend.

According to Computer Weekly, hundreds of IT projects have been put on hold at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and 300 contractors been told to clean out their desks.

Up to 500 projects are under review, on hold or set to be scrapped.

Word on the street is that an audit of DWP’s accounts at the halfway point in the financial year revealed a significant overspend in DWP Digital, the department’s IT team. Numbers like £250 million have been bandied about but a DWP spokesperson has denied it:

“We routinely review our work to ensure that we focus our resources on the most viable options and deliver the best value for the taxpayer. This year we are on track to deliver record digital transformation on a scale larger than most FTSE 100 companies.”

Projects affected include a move to migrate applications away from existing HPE datacentres to the Crown Hosting Service set up by the Cabinet Office, and getting rid of ancient Fujitsu VME mainframes. Several IT suppliers to DWP have been hit.   Several thousand Microsoft Surface Pro laptops are “sitting in cupboards” waiting to be deployed as part of a major desktop overhaul.

There appear to be no lay-offs among permanent DWP staff who appear to be being used to take up the slack.



Avnet and Ingram see sales fall

avnettsJust as Ingram is about to be bought, HNA and Avnet gears up to sell TS unit to Tech Data, both outfits are seeing their sales slide.

It is no big news, both Avnet and Ingram Micro have seen several quarters of sales doom as they start their M&A activity.

Ingram’s Q3, which ended 1 October, net profits jumped 21 per cent annually to $78.5m (£64.4m) on sales which were down three per cent over the same period to $10.2 billion.  Ingram is becoming part of the Chinese giant HNA. It did not hold a Q3 earnings call or provide a financial outlook for that reason.

Tts CEO Alain Monié did say the third quarter had been seen “robust improvement in gross and operating margins.”

“We see further stabilisation in market demand across most of the globe and our teams continue to leverage our investments in productivity and services to deliver improved bottom-line results and growth in a number of areas as we benefit from the broadest solutions portfolio and widest geographic reach in the industry,” he added.

Avnet is trying to sell its Technology Solutions arm to Tech Data. For the combined business, including TS, net profit fell 47.1 per cent annually to $68.8m, on sales which slumped 13 per cent over the same period to $6bn.

This means that TS performed “below expectations”, with sales falling 21.2 per cent annually to $1.87bn.

CEO William Ameilo said Avnet’s future without TS looks bright.

“In summary, the sale of TS allows us to focus on electronic components business, to which we just added unique capability with the acquisition of Premier Farnell while providing significant capital to strengthen our balance sheet and fund future growth,” he said.

Britain’s not got security talent

5710dc371600002b0031bc8aMore than half of UK organisations do not believe they have the in-house talent required to combat existing cyber-security threats, according to new research.

Beancounters from Databarracks have added up some numbers and divided by their shoe size and reached the conclusion that two thirds of the 350 IT decision makers questioned had been affected by a cyber-threat in the past year. But 53 per cent of those questioned felt that they had the sufficient cyber-security skills in their team needed to handle the current sophistication of attacks.

According to Databarrack’s 2016 Data Health Check cyber attacks were increasing and only a third of the respondents in our study remained unscathed by an attack in the last 12 months.

Oscar Arean, technical operations manager at Databarracks said: “Reassuringly though, the number of people looking to improve their security policies is increasing year on year, with a third of respondents in 2016 admitting they had reviewed policies and made changes following an attack, as opposed to 29 per cent in 2014.”

According to the report, over half of respondents have invested in safeguards to protect against cyber threats in the past year. Ongoing training, cyber threat monitoring solutions, and improvement of policies were the most common investments.

“This is a definite step in the right direction, but it seems that current resilience planning is mostly inward-looking at this point, as only 5 per cent of respondents had invested in a certification to a cyber security framework. Considering confidence in in-house skills is so low, it’s likely we’ll see an increase in adoption of security frameworks in the coming years,” Arean said.

FAST rewarding whistleblowers

r-1417839-1397651202-4169-jpegThe Federation Against Software Theft (FAST) is planning to start a scheme where it will financially reward whistleblowers.

The incentive payment agreement works on the basis that if a report from a whistleblower leads to the successful identification of illegal software then there will be a payment of 55 percent of the historic use payment. In some companies that could be a lot of dosh.

FAST hopes that it will encourage more people to come forward and grass up their companies.

FAST CEO Alex Hilton said piracy figures are declining in the UK, but there remains a hard core of users who are intentionally using unlicensed software. It has announced a new damages programme to punish companies and now it wants to reward individuals who know that the organisations they are working for are intentionally misusing software.

In most cases the vast majority of cases where FAST comes across under-licensing in business, it is the result of oversight. In those cases FAST will help ensure that their software is compliant.

However company bosses who are deliberately ignoring their software licensing responsibilities should be warned that FAST is coming at them with a big financial stick,” he added.

Whistleblowers can report illegal software use via the FAST hotline or through the web. A report, which clearly details the use of unlicensed products, then needs to be submitted for the group to act on.

FAST has found that in the past job preservation was preventing more whistleblowers from coming forward. The reward system might encourage greater willingness to speak out against illegal activity.

Cloudy Netsuite delivers final results  

grandpa_simpson_yelling_at_cloudSome Netsuite shareholders might be relieved that the outfit could be bought by Oracle – the outfit’s last financial results were not that great.

The Cloud-based ERP outfit announced its last quarter results before it joins Ellison’s team and while it has continued to grow it is also showing increased operating overheads and losses. In other-words if it had not been bought out it could be in for some serious restructuring if it is going to continue.

NetSuite reported a third quarter loss of $34.1 million compared to $37.7 million a year earlier, on revenue of $243.9, up 26 percent. Costs increased to $50.2 million compared to $44.3 million.

The $9.3 million buyout needs to be approved by shareholders on 4 November. Surprisingly, shareholders don’t like it and the meeting could be contentious.  The feeling is that Ellison and the Netsuite board have  undervalued the company. We would have thought that they only have to look at the numbers to see that it is probably a good idea.

The Netsuite board seems to think the shareholders will go for it. They have said that this is the last time that the company would be making the figures public.  After all it is going to be part of Ellison’s empire if the vote goes ahead.

Weak pound gives Computacenter a temporary lift

boris-parachuteThe weak pound helped Computacenter’s bottom line by boosting the value of its business in mainland Europe.

The London-listed firm reported a two percent year-on-year rise in turnover to £735 million, more than £400 million of which was generated in Germany and France. Group services revenues grew by four percent as reported and the supply grew one percent.

The UK side of the business was as soft as a baby’s bottom but thanks to Brexit sinking the pound that hardly got noticed.

Sales were down three percent to £314 million, including a ten percent slump in services revenues. However the supply chain grew two percent.

“We are pleased to see a return to growth in our supply chain business, however, as broadly anticipated, our services revenue remains challenged principally due to the buoyant nature of projects in 2015,” the firm said.

In Germany things were much better. Revenues grew eight percent as reported to £325 million, but decreased two percent in constant currency. Service revenue was up 22 percent and the supply chain increased two percent.

France which normally was a blackspot on Computer Center’s revenues grew three percent to £83 million. Services and product sales also benefited from the currency translation.

Group funds totalled £96.7 million at the end of the quarter, up £29 million on the same period a year earlier.

The company forecasted sales of £3.1 billion for 2016, which would equate to a three percent rise as reported.