Ramesys records £7m loss as BSF bids and loans take toll

Ramesys made a loss of more than £7m in 2008 due to bank interest repayments and investments in Building Schools for the Future (BSF) bids.

Ramesys made a loss of more than £7m in 2008 due to bank interest repayments and investments in Building Schools for the Future (BSF) bids.

In calendar year 2008, sales at the Nottingham-based education reseller dropped 4.4% to £30.3m as losses fell from the £9.3m recorded in 2007 to £7.2m, including an operating loss of £5m and £2.2m paid out in interest charges.

"2008 has been a challenging year for the business, not least due to the economic climate which has impacted both the wider market and our supply chain," Mark Chambers, CEO at Ramesys told MicroScope.

The company, focused purely on the Government's BSF and the Academies programmes, had a 2008 order book worth £119m with a further £88m of follow-on work under negotiations from existing clients at the end of the year.

"Whilst the headline numbers may not be viewed as positive for 2008 they reflect our initial investment without a balancing return on that investment which will come in due course," said Chambers.

Stripping out exceptional items including goodwill, interest payments to lenders and bid costs of around £2m, the underlying loss was £1m compared to £3m in 2007, he added.

The 2008 consolidated balance sheet revealed that Ramesys is at the mercy of backers Lloyds Banking Group (LBG) as it had £8.7m negative working capital and retains a negative equity position, even before exclusion of intangible goodwill.

The loans included £10.7m owed to LBG which is now deferred by a year to December 2011, and £4.6m owed to Microsoft - to repay the software firm for the debacle uncovered by MicroScope in 2008 that saw it profiteering from miss-selling licenses to schools - £2.4m of which remains payable in December 2010.

One of the major changes in the year saw the conversion of around £15m debt to preference shares by Lloyds Development Capital, which improved the balance sheet and reduced immediate pressure on the firm's repayments.

Chambers admitted that 2009 numbers will show a similar performance but added, "We are adopting a sensible and prudent forecasting strategy and do not expect the business to break into operating profit until 2010."

The five-year order book is in excess of £200m to date, said Chambers: "We have four more bids in progress in 2010 and as a result I anticipate the order book [to] grow to over £300m by the end of 2010."

Credit insurers slashed limits on Ramesys last year and both underwriters and suppliers may wish to see a dramatic improvement in the numbers sooner rather than later.

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