Bull's hit by PB-NEC charge – big loss for 99

Wildly underforming on the CAC front too. That's enough toilet jokes - Ed

Bull will make a loss of 280 million euros for 1999, although the information the company posts on its web site is less than forthright and mentions no such loss, which results from a charge against its stake in Packard Bell NEC. This essentially stopped US operations last November. Q4 revenue took a 6 per cent tumble compared with the year earlier quarter, with revenue for 1999 of 3.8 billion euros, marginally up on 1998. Bull has been criticised in the past for springing bad news on the market. Its performance has been poor compared with the Paris bourse CAC index over the past two years: the CAC has almost doubled, whereas Bull has declined from around 10 euros at the beginning of 1998, briefly peaking at 16 in mid-1998 before plunging to 5 euros last March. Currently Bull's shares are trading at around 7 euros, down 5 per cent on the results. The market cap is a slender 1.24 billion euros. Although the company boasts that most of its sales are outside France, its failure to list on a US exchange cannot help its present position, although a glance at the principal shareholders suggests that this would offend Gallic pride: the French government has 17 per cent of the shares, with similar amounts held by France Telecom (as well as NEC and Motorola). Its product lineup has failed to excite the market, and in services in Europe it has only reached number three in systems integration and number five in customer services. Fredrik Bull, the Norwegian founder, would be disappointed. ®

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