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E-m@iler costs Amstrad £3.9m

But Jack Straw likes it, so that's OK

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Amstrad's interim results are evidence of the failure of the e-m@iler to capture the imagination of the public. The company announced that profits were down 82 per cent from £8.2 million to £1.51 million for the six months ending December 31.

Turnover was also down. It fell 27 per cent to £44.1 million. Previously the company had reported turnover of £60.8 million.

Company boss Alan Sugar said that sales of the e-m@iler were "encouraging," despite having to take a £3.9 million loss on their sales.

The finance director at the Amstrad/Dixons joint venture Amserve, Martin Bland, said that if the company stopped selling the units it would move into profit, but that the priority was getting the units out into the market.

The e-m@iler costs around £80 to buy, and the user is then billed at 12 pence per emailing session, and an additional 12 pence per email sent.

Meanwhile, Jack Straw - in tune as ever with public opinion - has given the e-m@iler his backing. It is set to take centre stage in a Neighbourhood Watch scheme in Lancashire.

The terminals will be installed in the homes of 62 volunteers who will use them to alert the police to any dodgy looking happenings nearby, and will receive regular updates from the police.

The Home Secretary said that the scheme was the perfect example of how technology could be used to "improve the flow of information and intelligence in a bid to decrease crime."

But it hasn't been altogether bad news for Sugar. He has won £100,000 off the Daily Mail in libel damages.

The 53-year-old Amstrad man, and multi-millionaire, had sued the Mail over a December 1999 story which had called him a miser and said he must come out of his "counting house" and give manager George Graham the cash to buy high class players.

For the defence, Victoria Sharp said that while Sugar had turned the club into a financial success, this was not what a football club was about. "What is the good of having the best financial club if you do not have the best players on the pitch?" she asked. ®

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