April 5, 2011 2:40 am

Alterian chief quits after shares slump

Alterian’s chief executive has resigned after a profit warning from the marketing technology group pushed its shares down by almost 20 per cent.

David Eldridge, who has been with the company he helped found for 14 years, stepped down from the role after a delay to the signing of a contract with one of Alterian’s largest customers.

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Alterian did not name the customer, but said it was a partner that licensed Alterian’s technology to its own customers. The contract had been due to be signed by the end of Alterian’s financial year on March 31.

As a result, annual revenues will be 10 per cent below market expectations of £42m to £44m ($68m to $71m), the majority of which will come out of profits. Alterian shares closed down 35¾p, or 19 per cent, at 154p on Monday.

Alterian’s business is dependent on a number of large contracts, many of which are signed in the final quarter of the year. In January last year, the company issued a warning that delays to several new business contracts would put its full-year figures under pressure, sending its shares down 17 per cent.

“The results for the year will be disappointing, principally as a result of the deferral of a major expected contract renewal and extension,” Mr Eldridge said. “I take my responsibilities seriously and am stepping down from my role as the chief executive of Alterian.”

Iain Johnston, a non-executive director of Alterian with experience of running other technology businesses, will become deputy chairman as the company begins its search for a new chief.

Keith Hamill, chairman, paid tribute to Mr Eldridge’s work since the company’s stock market flotation in 2000 and said he “will be missed”.

“The company is generally in good shape, although working hard, and has launched a number of major new products that have been well received,” Mr Hamill said.

Alterian said it was “likely” the delayed contract would be secured.

Mr Hamill told the Financial Times: “It is not unusual in a software licensing [business] to have a large build-up of business towards the end of a quarter. Alterian, partly caused by rapid growth, has got this bunch towards the end of the year. Clearly, David does feel a responsibility for the situation.”

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