Datrontech joints profit warning stampede

Is RD Computers up for sale, or what?

Datrontech Group's pre-tax profit will only reach half of market expectations for its first half, the company warned today. Profit for the period was originally estimated at about £4 million. But there will be a shortfall due to flagging demand in the European PC market in April and May. Datrontech joins a long list of distributors issuing profit warnings this quarter. Northamber, ilion and Ideal Hardware have all admitted to struggling with market conditions. The group blamed poor sales and profits in its component distribution sector, a situation it said showed no sign of improvement. "There has been little sign of improvement during the first few days of June and as a result sales and profits in our component distribution companies will be very disappointing at the half year," it said. The UK networking businesses were still said to be performing well. Companies in Eastern Europe continued to make losses, but at a much reduced rate. The Czech and Polish subsidiaries turned in a combined loss of just under £2 million for the extended year ended 4 January, blamed for a fall in profit for the company overall. "High priority continues to be given to strengthening the group’s balance sheet and improving cash flow," CEO Mark Mulford said, in a statement. Datrontech still aims to shift its product mix to an even split between component distribution and its networking business. Last year’s 70:30 split will reach 50:50 in the medium term -- because networking sales are growing faster than components. Mulford added that the group expected to get rid of certain non-core assets, and cut costs by penalising managers who exceed working capital limits. Datrontech also wants to start direct-order web sites to lower operating margins. Industry insiders say Computacenter is interested in buying RD. Alan Mack, Datrontech group commercial director, declined to comment on offloading parts of the company, or if this referred to the RD Computers 'IT disposals division, but he described a non-core asset as "for example, a business that is not fundamental or strategic to the group." ®

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