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Phorm's losses top $100m

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The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

Phorm will shift some of its operations from London to Brazil to save money after announcing another heavy loss for 2009.

The web monitoring and profiling firm lost $29.7m last year, it told investors today. That's down from $49.8m in 2008, mainly thanks to layoffs at the beginning of 2009.

Phorm also said it may seek more funding in Brazil, where its only ISP partner, Oi, is based. It believes its stock price in London, massively down in the last two years, "does not adequately reflect the nature of the global opportunity that we face", and that seeking local cash will be better value to shareholders.

At the end of 2009 it had $19.7m in cash, having raised $23.4m from private equity during the year.

Since it announced the Brazilian deal in March however, regulators in the country have given Phorm a cool reception. On Monday, the Brazilian Ministry of Justice opened administrative proceedings against Oi and Phorm accusing them of failing to respond to official request to explain how their behavioural advertising system works. The pair are threatened with a fine of R$3m.

Separately, public debates are to be held this week in both Brazil and South Korea, another market Phorm has focused on since its failure in the UK, over privacy concerns around its technology. The Register understands the firm has also recently entered negotiations in China.

So far investors have lost $105.6m on Phorm since 2005, and its financial report acknowledged it will continue to rely on their generosity. The firm's circumstances "may cast significant doubt upon the group's ability to continue as a going concern", it said. On balance it said Phorm has a "reasonable expectation" the money will keep coming "to continue in operational existence for the foreseeable future", however.

There are some small positive signs for the firm. More Brazilians opted into its Oi trial than expected, and it sent out its first invoices, for R$1.6m.

The full financial report is here.

In the UK, where Phorm's problems began, prosecutors continue to consider a criminal case over its secret trials with BT. Meanwhile, the European Commission is still threatening to sue the British government after the controversy exposed loopholes in its implementation of privacy laws. ®

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