Psion dips into the red

UK PDA maker pins future success on the enterprise market as it announces £13m losses for its first six months, but insists the Symbian flotation is still on track

Wireless and handheld computer firm Psion announced on Wednesday that it had made a loss of £13m in the first half of its 2001 financial year ending on 30 June, but insisted that plans for a flotation of Symbian -- its smartphone software business -- were still on track.

The UK-based group's losses were larger than some analysts had predicted, but the stock market reacted calmly to the news, with Psion's shares rising three percent in early trading. The company had made a profit of £3.1m for the same period a year ago.

David Potter, chairman of Psion, blamed the losses on the downturn in the technology sector -- which has forced the firm to restructure its business. Psion announced last month that it would cease manufacturing its consumer PDAs, such as the Revo and the Series 5 and 7 handheld computers.

In a statement, Potter explained that Psion was going through a period of considerable change. "Having cut costs, the group will focus on higher margin corporate markets, innovation in new 'thin client' products and on working towards maximising the value of its investment in Symbian," he said.

Potter expects that the restructuring -- which will see Psion concentrating on providing customised solutions for enterprise customers through its Teklogix division -- will result in a improved performance next year.

Potter warned that Symbian would soon need an extra injection of cash, but insisted that plans for a stock market flotation, delayed by the slump in the technology sector, would still go ahead eventually. "Symbian will require additional funding in the first half of 2002," he said. "The Supervisory Board remains committed to Symbian's flotation in due course, subject to the establishment of a mass market for Symbian OS products and the prevalence of favourable financial market conditions," said Potter.

Psion is the largest shareholder in Symbian, which licenses the EPOC operating system and is developing software to run the next generation of mobile phones. Psion said on Wednesday that it does not expect that Symbian will reach break-even point until at least the end of 2003, later than previously hoped.

Explaining that Symbian has been affected by the slowdown in the mobile phone sector, Potter insisted that the long-term prognosis was still favourable. "Symbian continues to have a leading position in terms of licensee development programmes for Smartphone products for 2.5G and 3G markets," he insisted.

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