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Sophos, the UK anti-virus firm, had a good year on the back of the virus plague, producing pre-tax profits up 24 per cent to £12.1m (2002: £9.8m) on sales up 30 per cent o £41m (2002:£31.6m) for the year to March 31 2003.

According to IDC, the anti-virus market should grow at 15 per cent annually between 2002 and 2007, so Sophos comfortably outperformed the market last year.

Doubtless the company benefited from increased security awareness as a result of the Slammer outbreak in January, to say nothing of Blaster and Sobig (both of which happened after it closed its books).

In the longer term, Sophos, possibly the most traditional of the AV vendors, faces challenges from intrusion prevention and managed services firms. These new contenders argue that the current approach to dealing against malware is failing.

Sophos can always point to its financial figures by way of retort. Since 1994, the company has produced compound annual turnover growth of 42 per cent and compound pre-tax profits growth of 44 per cent.

"Sophos has achieved consistent growth over the last year and for the third consecutive year we have outperformed the anti-virus market as a whole," said Peter Lammer, joint CEO for Sophos. "Our strategy of developing protection specifically designed for networked corporate environments, backed up with round-the-clock support, is clearly working."

Sophos currently employs 550 people. The UK headcount alone has increased 34 per cent since April 2001 and is set to grow as Sophos's new £32 million global headquarters is scheduled to open alongside its existing Oxfordshire offices in October 2003.

The company has also expanded its worldwide reach with a certification enabling to sell its products in mainland China. Sophos plans to release versions of its AV software products in Brazilian, Portuguese and Korean as well as traditional and simplified Chinese.

Sophos also increased its number of OEM partnerships over the last FY. New partners include Ositis, Stalker, Telnet Media and Preventon. ®

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