Isoft puts itself up for sale

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Isoft put itself up for sale on Tuesday after receiving expressions of interest from a number of companies, as the troubled healthcare software company said it expected a revenue decline for this year of between 10 and 15 per cent.

The group, a supplier to the £12.4bn National Health Service IT project, said a number of parties – including both financial investors and companies with an interest in the healthcare market – were interested in acquiring the whole group or a large shareholding, or creating a significant alliance with the company.

‘The board has concluded that shareholders’ interests are best served by opening discussions with a number of these parties…These discussions may or may not lead to an offer for the company,’ it said in a statement ahead of its annual meeting in Manchester.

The company has appointed Gleacher Shacklock and Morgan Stanley to advise on its strategic options.

Isoft has been hit by a string of problems and profit warnings related to the delayed NHS project, causing its shares to plunge by nearly 90 per cent over the last year.

It is also under investigation by the Financial Services Authority into possible accounting irregularities and has to contend with a tough debt repayment schedule after agreeing new financing arrangements with its banks in August.

Kevin Ashton, an analyst at Bridgewell Securities, one of the company’s brokers, has said that these issues were likely to preclude an early deal as well as an interest from private equity, although strategic trade buyers could be interested.

In August, Isoft reported a pre-tax loss of £343.8m compared with a profit of £2.2m a year earlier, and failed to give an outlook for 2007.

The group said on Tuesday that that revenues would fall in the first half and full-year to April 2007 by 10-15 per cent, blaming delays in the NHS project as well as media and market comment about the company’s issues.

This implies a range of £171-£182m or an average £177m, said Mr Ashton, which is in line with his forecast but lower than the market average which according to Thomson is £197m.

Isoft is continuing to reduce its cost base, which would have a ‘”modest beneficial impact” on the second half. It also anticipated a return to revenue growth in 2008.

Isoft shares fell ½p to 55¼p in early morning in London.

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