ICl bounces back with ú36m profit


ICL, the supplier of information technology services and systems, which employs 600 people in Ireland, has reversed years of losses and reported pre-tax profits of ú30 million sterling (IRú36 million) for 1997.

The results represent a major turnaround for the company which in 1996 reported losses of ú2.5 million sterling and ú188.3 million for the year before.

The company, which is owned by Fujitsu, plans to re-list on the London Stock Exchange in the year 2000. It was de-listed in 1985 when it faced serious competition from larger US rivals.

ICL Ireland's turnover grew by between 10 and 15 per cent in 1997, said a spokesman and the company expects to exceed this in 1998.

"With the expansion in our IT services business, we expect to see employment increasing over the next few years," said ICL Ireland marketing manager, Mr John Buchan.

The company currently employs 150 people in its customer services division in the Republic and expects this to be an area of likely expansion. The main sectors being targeted in the Republic for new business are retail and financial services.

The company recently signed a significant contract to supply a customer management system for Telecom Eireann.

Mr Buchan said the listing in London would benefit the Irish operation and will help fuel further growth.

The company, which has transformed itself from a hardware manufacturer into an IT services provider, says its Japanese majority owner, Fujitsu, is committed to diluting its 90 per cent stake to about 51 per cent as part of the flotation.

Mr Keith Todd, chief executive of the ICL in Britain, said the Canadian company Nortel, was likely to give up its 10 per cent stake in the company.

Still referred to as a flagship of Britain's computer industry by old-timers, but considered a crusty old hardware company by the young generation, ICL is now striving to stamp its new image as an IT provider, Mr Todd said.

ICL used to make a wide range of computers at its plant in Staffordshire, until Fujitsu and the current management decided on a new image.

"The new ICL has come of age. We are heavily involved in a whole new range of new products related to the network-based world," Mr Todd said.

ICL is now involved in several lucrative contracts in Britain, one of them being to automate Britain's Post Office network which Mr Todd describes as one of the biggest contracts under Britain's Private Finance Initiative.

The company's future will mainly focus around its outsourcing contracts which are currently growing at 25 per cent per year.