Stockton-based Vianet upbeat despite £2m sales drop

Data monitoring company Vianet said it attributes a £2m sales fall to uncertainty over the government's proposed statutory code for pub companies

James Dickson of Vianet
Executive chairman James Dickson

Data monitoring company Vianet said it is pleased with its half-yearly results, despite seeing a £2.18m fall in sales it attributes to the uncertainty over the Government’s proposed statutory code for pub companies.

The Stockton-based technology business, which provides monitoring systems for pubs, petrol station forecourts, and vending and gaming companies, said its fuel and vending solutions had performed well over the six months to September 30, 2013.

However, overall revenues dropped by 19% to £9.01m, due to sales for its core beer monitoring system iDraught being slowed by the potential statutory code. Pre-tax profit also fell from £1.26m for the same time period in 2012 to £567,000.

The Government launched a consultation in April – Pub Companies and Tenants – part of which suggests flow monitoring equipment may not be used to determine whether a tenant “is complying with purchasing obligations, or as evidence in enforcing such obligations”.

Vianet delivered a strong response to the consultation and said it has so far received a favourable response, prompting hopes of a good outcome, possibly expected before Christmas.

Meanwhile, however, firms have been holding back on making capital investment while a cloud hangs over the issue.

Executive chairman James Dickson said: “No sensible person is going to make a capital investment until there’s an outcome. There hasn’t been an official notice but we are expecting something to happen between now and Christmas. We know that the department has given serious consideration to our evidence, but never try to second-guess politicians.”

Despite the drop, the 250-strong firm said it remains confident about the future growth potential for the product, and Dickson said good progress had been made in other operations, including the leisure division, fuel solutions division, telemetry solutions for the coffee vending market and, notably, the start-up operation in the US.

Vianet started the US launch of its core iDraught beer monitoring system in February, linking up with Micro Matic USA for nationwide installation, service and sales support, while keeping operational costs down through use of its UK infrastructure. Pilot installations are being carried out in AMC Theatres, Texas Roadhouse and a third national chain, creating the potential for the chains to install the product in 1,700 sites.

Chief executive Stewart Darling said: “We’re making good progress in the USA. We want to win confidence in key customers and we’re very focussed on the customers we want to acquire.

“The challenge is they have to make changes and they can’t be made overnight, but we are very encouraged by progress.”

Dickson added: “Assuming that a satisfactory outcome from the revised statutory code is announced in the second half of the current financial year, the board remains optimistic for the growth prospects of Vianet’s flagship iDraught product in the medium to longer term as well as for the other parts of the group.

“I believe the group has the right products and structure in place to secure additional blue chip customers and grow income across all divisions.”

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