Shares in Computacenter fell nearly 10 per cent on Friday after the IT services group warned that tough early-year trading in the UK and France would hold back first-half profits.
The fall came in spite of reassurances by Mike Norris, chief executive, that sales had improved in recent weeks and he was still expecting the company to meet estimates for the full year. Computacenter’s sales are heavily weighted towards the second half of the year, with about two-thirds of revenues coming in this period.
Analysts at Piper Jaffray cut their recommendation on the stock from “buy” to “hold”, saying the company was heavily dependent on macroeconomic conditions holding up in the second half and there was little visibility yet on whether this would happen.
Mr Norris said the early Easter holiday this year had held back sales in the first quarter, and the company’s push into the mid-market was not going as fast as expected.
Computacenter sells computer equipment and IT services to large corporations such as Aegon and BAE Systems but has invested £4.5m ($8.8m) in the past year to get more medium-sized companies as customers.
“Mid-market sales are not growing as fast as we’d like to see. It’s taking longer than we expected,” Mr Norris said. However, he said the company had yet to suffer any effects of the credit crunch and economic slowdown.
He added: “It hasn’t been that bad in the first three or four months. It’s not as good as I hoped, but the market is not crashing. In fact, investment banking has seen some of the strongest sales in the past few months.”
UK sales for the first quarter were down 1.5 per cent on a like-for-like basis at £346.6m, while non-UK sales in local currencies were down 7.1 per cent at €332.8m ($517.6, £264.6m) as weaker sales in France offset an improved performance in Germany. However, at a group level revenues rose 1.8 per cent to £598.4m because of the strength of the euro against the dollar.
Shares in Computacenter fell 19p to 182p.