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Y2K bug meets match in service sector

Two services giants make upbeat statements regarding date change slow down

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Bullish trading statements from top UK services houses Sema and CMG over the last two days saw both companies say they would breeze through the year 2000 with barely a financial blip. The news -- coupled with strong results from both firms -- raised optimism in the city that the impact of the millennium bug spending freeze would have a limited impact on the supplier market. Shares prices across the IT services sector rose, where a heavy sell-off leading to a series of sudden mergers was feared. Declaring Sema's half yearly results yesterday, chief executive Pierre Bonelli said: "We are confident we will not suffer any expected downturn due to Y2K uncertainties." CMG told the same story only the day before at its half year results. Chairman Cor Stutterheim, told a briefing: "We don't expect to be particularly affected. Impacts will be very slight if at all." The smaller CMG posted excellent results with turnover up 50 per cent to £290.5 million and gross profit up 51 per cent to £36.8 million. Sema's ongoing turnover was up a quarter to £668.5 million with profit up 35 per cent to £38.5 million. The figures left analysts much more optimistic -- about the larger suppliers at least. Ian Spence, senior analyst at WestLB Panmure, said: "Crisis what crisis?" but added: "It's proving much harder for smaller firms; the big boys are eating their lunch." George O'Connor, an analyst at Granville, added: "The fourth quarter will still be difficult. But it will be brief and not serious." ®

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