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Monday 22 July 2024

The after-effects of a global IT outage

BSODAs I was writing about the global IT outage Friday morning (See - Worldwide IT outage disrupts numerous industries) early reports were already speculating that cybersecurity supplier CrowdStrike was somehow involved. It was later confirmed that the disruption to so many organisations on Friday and over the weekend was indeed caused by a recent CrowdStrike Falcon sensor update, causing Windows devices to enter BSOD loops that made them inoperable. 

The after-effects are still being felt, with disruption across financial services, media broadcasts, transportation, retail and healthcare. Thousands of flights have been cancelled or delayed, whilst the NHS has said health service IT systems are back online, but warned that there may still be delays as GP services rebook appointments. The incident affected more than eight million computers worldwide. CrowdStrike has in many respects managed to cause one of the largest security incidents of the year, without hackers even lifting a finger.

I have seen a lot of posts over the weekend saying that this demonstrates the fragility of depending on a sole company for IT provision and the need to have multiple cloud suppliers. There is some truth in such statements in a broader context, but we should be clear, it has nothing to do with what happened on Friday, this could have happened to any number of technology suppliers. Perhaps more to the point is how reliant the world is on Microsoft Windows devices, but that is a topic for another day.

However, I think the bigger issue to discuss here is that of resilience. The lessons of the pandemic should not be quickly forgotten, supply chains, whether physical or digital are fragile. Organisations are so reliant on a number of third-party suppliers, that disruption to any one of them can bring operations to a standstill. We never know what shocks are going to be around the corner, it might be a defective patch today, but tomorrow it could be a cyber incident, or a climate event. Organisations need to better prepare for a host of such scenarios, and when it comes to IT suppliers, they must understand what might happen if any fail or experience critical issues. With so many software systems reliant on external data or integrations with each other to work, mapping out such dependencies is a complex endeavour, but one that must be given more consideration.

What does this mean for CrowdStrike? Well, the company’s share price took a plunge of c.11% on Friday, and certainly this will have really irked a lot of its customers, but at the end of the day it did nothing to lessen the capability of CrowdStrike in terms of protecting against cyber attacks. It is still a highly effective platform, and for this reason I think the company (and stock) will quickly bounce back.

Posted by: Simon Baxter at 09:46

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Monday 22 July 2024

Jaguar TCS racing to innovate

TCSI was lucky to spend some time on Friday and over the weekend with the Jaguar TCS Formula E Racing team at the London E-Prix. For the uninitiated, Formula E is bit like an electric vehicle (EV) version of Formula One, with elite single-seater racing teams racing round London’s Docklands for two rounds of the World Championship, that brought the season to a close. As well as catching some of the racing, I got to spend time with Ved Sen, Head of Innovation at TCS UK & Ireland, as well as James Barclay, the Team Principal at Jaguar TCS Racing.

Jaguar entered Formula E in 2016 to use it as a real-world test bed for EV technology. They coined the phrase "we race to innovate" to emphasize their focus on developing road-relevant technologies. Technology transfer examples include silicon carbide in inverters that were first used in their race car back in 2017, then announced for road cars four years later, and in oil re-refining they are working with Castrol to re-refine used race car oils for reuse without performance loss. The racing team is integrated with the broader Jaguar business with breakthroughs in racing technology shared with core engineers for potential application in future vehicles.

Formula E has attracted a lot of attention from IT Services providers as software, data/analytics and digital play a key role in how the Cars are differentiated. This means that the role of TCS (and the likes of Tech Mahindra and Infosys who works with other teams) within the team’s partner ecosystem is key to competitive advantage. Ved Sen and James Barclay talked through the work that TCS had been doing which majors on providing cloud computing capabilities in helping manage large amounts of race data. Connecting the race teams at the track to the data analytics teams back at HQ in Oxfordshire in real time. Racing in now producing Terabytes of data that needs to be interpreted and applied to race performance in rapid time. The other key innovation that TCS is providing are digital twins of race tracks, which because of their temporary nature, require simulation capabilities to prepare for races virtually – for example the Docklands track is located within the Excel exhibition centre so cannot be used for practise outside of race meetings.

The Jaguar TCS Formula E set up is incredibly impressive and clearly producing significant innovation with each new generation of car, that is improving battery efficiency and performance improvements. On the racing front, alas Jaguar TCS missed out on the Drivers’ championship by the narrowest of margins to Porsche but did win the Team Championship.

Posted by: Marc Hardwick at 09:33

Tags: automotive   vehicles   motorsport   electric  

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Monday 22 July 2024

AdvancedAdvT reports positive momentum

AdvancedAdvT logoAdvancedAdvT, provider of software for the business solutions, healthcare compliance and human capital management sectors, this morning reported ‘good organic growth, in line with the Board’s expectations’ for the eight-month period ending 29 February 2024.

It’s hard for us to judge performance without comparative figures, but revenue from continuing operations in the period was £21.1m, of which 77% was recurring, with an adjusted EBITDA from continuing operations of £4.4m, ahead of management expectations. We also know that the acquisitive group had cash reserves of £82.1m at the end of February (down from £104.7m at the end of June ’23), in addition to a 9.8% stake in M&C Saatchi valued at £23.4m as of end of June ’24.

The ‘good progress’ has reportedly continued in the current financial year (which started on 1 March), with a number of large, long-term contracts secured across both public and private sector customers and improvements in the performance of all four business units.

It has certainly been a busy period for AdvancedAdvT, during which it has acquired five software businesses from Capita; sold one of the acquired businesses, Synaptic Software; acquired intelligent process automation provider Celaton; and completed the move to the AIM market.

Just as importantly, it has also been a period focused on identifying and implementing operational improvements within the acquired businesses and refreshing the go-to market strategy following significant investment by the businesses in SaaS and cloud prior to the acquisition. This strategic focus on standardisation and simplification across the group will be key to optimising performance going forwards.

M&A also remains a strategic focus and Executive Chairperson Vin Murria, confirmed they are continuing to explore numerous acquisition opportunities to expand the group across adjacent markets, geographical boundaries and digital sectors. We can expect to see more businesses with high recurring revenues, sticky customers, and mission critical products and services, joining the group before too long.

Posted by: Tola Sargeant at 09:33

Tags: results   software  

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Monday 22 July 2024

Wipro’s recovery remains work in progress

LogoA towards lower end of guidance performance saw Wipro’s top line decline continue during Q125. Company turnover for the three months ended 30th June decreased sequentially and yoy by 1% and 4.9% respectively to $2.626bn. The offshore major’s operating margin did, however, prove more resilient improving by 10 bps qoq to 16.5% for the period.

Across the company’s regional and industry sector market portfolio, the narrative for the most recently completed quarter remained largely unchanged from the Q424 results commentary (see here). In terms of industry sectors, it was again only Wipro’s Health segment business which achieved a yoy revenue increase during the start of the new financial year. Demand in the firm’s Banking, Financial Services and Insurance, which returned to qoq revenue growth for the first time in eighteen months in the prior period, also continued to inch back up in Q1. Sales in this vertical rose sequentially by 0.5% to c.$890m.

From a geographic perspective, Wipro Europe suffered another double-digit yoy drop in revenue in the first quarter.  Turnover in this territory was down 10.4% to c.$725m. The company’s two Americas businesses, which together generate more than three fifths of firm-wide sales, proved somewhat hardier. The top line shrinkage across these units was limited to less than 1% for the period.

Wipro did, nonetheless, report another $1+bn large deals bookings quarter, albeit the cumulative value of these signings was down 3.6% yoy. The latest clutch of contracts included a notable success in the UK. May saw the firm selected by merchant banking group, Close Brothers to support the transformation of its IT operations and modernisation of its technology ecosystem (see here).

There is, however, no significant rebound in the company’s fortunes yet in prospect. Wipro expects that Q225 revenue will be in the range of $2.600bn to $2,652bn. This translates to sequential guidance of -1% to +1% in constant currency terms.

See how Wipro has been performing in the UK in our latest UK SITS Supplier Rankings.  

Posted by: Duncan Aitchison at 08:56

Tags: results   offshore   IT+services  

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Friday 19 July 2024

Worldwide IT outage disrupts numerous industries

logoIn breaking news this morning, numerous organisations across the globe have reported IT outages related to Microsoft devices and infrastructure, affecting everything from airlines to media, banks, retailers and GP surgeries. This is a story that is very much developing, with various reports coming in across media outlets and directly from organisations. It is shaping up to be potentially one of the biggest IT outages we have ever seen, and is not related to a cyber-attack, though the true cause is unclear.

Issues were first reported in Australia, with airports, shops, and communications affected. The issues have since spread globally which has seen many Microsoft devices receiving the dreaded ‘blue screen of death’. The cause behind the outage to Microsoft devices is unclear, there are also reports that cybersecurity supplier CrowdStrike has been having major issues, potentially due to a faulty patch with its Falcon platform, which could either be the cause of the whole mess, or just compounding the impact.

One of the big areas being impacted is transportation, in particular airlines and airports across the globe, in what is expected to be one of the business days for travel since 2019.  American Airlines, which is the world's biggest by passenger numbers, reported to the BBC that no flights are being allowed to take off, and that it is in contact with all flights that are currently in the air. It has said the IT problems are because of a technical issue with CrowdStrike that is impacting multiple carriers.  At Gatwick airport, barcodes are not working so security checks on boarding passes are being done manually. Ryanair and other global airlines have also reported issues. Train operators including Govia Thameslink and TransPennine are reporting widespread IT issues and warning of delays.

In media, Sky News was offline for several hours this morning, with services now restored. The London Stock Exchange reported problems with its RNS (regulatory news service). Retailers such as bakery and coffee shop chain Gail's reported they were unable to take in-store payments. In healthcare, there appears to be issues with booking appointments at some GP surgeries. There are multiple reports in relation to EMIS Web - which allows GPs to manage appointment bookings, conduct patient consultations, and update, store and share patient records.

This outage really highlights the importance technology now plays in both our lives and running the worlds organisations, particularly when we are so reliant on but a few suppliers for much of that infrastructure and software. This is a story that is going to unfold over the course of today and the weekend, so look for an update on Monday, where hopefully we will have some more clarity behind the true cause. For Microsoft and CrowdStrike it is shaping up to be a very bad day at the office (maybe less so for people whose devices are now bricked and are starting their weekend early).

Posted by: Simon Baxter at 10:04

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Friday 19 July 2024

Get your hands on Market Trends & Forecasts 2024

Have you got your hands on the most definitive view of the UK Software and IT Services market?

Market Trends & Forecasts 2024 is the epitome of everything that defines and differentiates TechMarketView. mft

The report is founded on months and months of DATA collection and analysis by the incredible TechMarketView analyst team; the painstaking work we do – involving detailed bottom-up revenue analysis of 100s of companies – to ensure we have a firm grip on the performance of the UK SITS market.

It shines a light on the DEPTH of understanding across the team, the result of 100s of conversations across the industry, with both suppliers and end user organisations. And it highlights the fact our commitment to both DATA and DEPTH enables us to cut through the tech market hype and give a realistic picture of the true level of DISRUPTION taking place. We are proud to be able to deliver high quality analysis to our clients.

In this year’s report, we highlight how our TechMarketView research theme for 2024Enabling Acceleration – has become increasingly pertinent as we’ve headed through the year. The pressure felt by organisations to keep pace with the speed of technological innovation and maintain competitiveness has intensified, driven by the excitement around the possibilities of Generative AI (GenAI).

Perhaps counterintuitively, this year, there has, to some extent, been a negative impact on the UK tech market. One outcome of the over-excitement has been the willingness of organisations to drop or delay other ICT transformation projects and divert attention to GenAI. However, to date, the vast majority of those GenAI activities remain in the advisory or experimentation stage. The UK SITS market shrank in real terms in 2023 with excitement yet to translate into a market boom. So far, only a handful of organisations – notably the hyperscalers – have materially benefited.

Market Trends & Forecasts 2024. If you are not yet a subscriber or are unsure if your organisation has a corporate subscription, please contact Belinda Tewson, who will be more than happy to help.
 

Why not make the absolute most of being part of the TechMarketView community and JOIN US at our event on 26th September in London? TechMarketView’s annual event is the industry’s premium networking event, where analysts, tech buyers, and suppliers can exchange views on the realities of the market in 2024.

Posted by: HotViews Editor at 09:01

Tags: forecasts   data   market trends  

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Friday 19 July 2024

*UKHotViewsExtra* TPXimpact: Onwards and upwards

TPXimpact logoOn 9th July, we published TPXimpact’s foundation for growth, highlighting a strong performance for TPXimpact in its FY24 (to end March). The self-styled “technology-enabled services company focused on people-powered digital transformation” revealed strong double-digit revenue growth, an improved EBITDA margin, and its lowest level of net debt in over three years.

Following the results announcement, this week, TechMarketView Chief Analyst, Georgina O’Toole, caught up with CEO, Bjorn Conway, and CFO, Steve Winters, to delve deeper into the numbers and further explore the management team’s positive outlook.

Georgina was keen to understand more about the revenue growth drivers, the EBITDA margin expectations, and the likelihood of both further restructuring and/or future acquisitions.

UKHotViews Premium badgeTechMarketView subscribers, including those that take UKHotViews Premium, can read the article – TPXimpact: Onwards and upwards | TechMarketView – now. If you are not yet a subscriber, or are unsure if your organisation has a corporate subscription, please contact Deb Seth to find out how to access this research and much more besides.

Posted by: Georgina O'Toole at 08:57

Tags: results   health   M&A   digital   integration   corporateactivity   central+government   public sector  

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Friday 19 July 2024

An encouraging start to FY25 for Infosys

LogoHaving finished FY24 on a flat note (see here), Infosys has seen a return to growth during the first quarter of its new fiscal year. Revenue for the three months ended 30th June increased by 3.6% sequentially and 2.5% yoy at constant currency to $4.7bn. Operating margin for the period rose by 30 bps against the prior year to 21.1%.

From a geographic perspective, it was Infosys Europe that made the largest contribution to the company’s improved fortunes. Sales in this region were up 9.3% yoy in Q1, albeit some of this bump came courtesy of the acquisition of German Engineering R&D services specialist in-tech which completed during the period. North America, conversely, continued to prove more of a challenge for the offshore major. First quarter sales of $2.78bn in the geography were down 1.2% yoy

In terms of industry verticals, only company’s Retail sector activities saw turnover dip during Q125. Importantly, the steep decline in Infosys’s Financial Services revenue experienced in the prior quarter was halted with demand holding steady against that in Q124. The stronger top line performances came from the company’s Energy, Utilities, Resources & Services, Manufacturing and Communication verticals. Sales in these units were up yoy by 6.3%, 6.0% and 5.3% respectively during the first quarter.

There was good news too on the business development front. The number of large deal secured by Infosys In Q125 was the highest ever for a quarter at 34. These wins had a combined TCV of $4.1bn of which almost three fifths was net new.

The positive start to the year has encouraged Infosys to raise its top line guidance for FY. The company now anticipates that revenue for the period will increase at constant currency by 3%-4%, up from the 1%-3% projection issued three months ago.

See how Infosys has been performing in the UK in our latest UK SITS Supplier Rankings.  

Posted by: Duncan Aitchison at 08:04

Tags: results   offshore   IT+services  

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Friday 19 July 2024

Sopra Steria adjusts 2024 growth outlook, maintains margin target

Sopra SteriaSopra Steria has released preliminary results for the first half of 2024, revealing a mixed performance amid challenging market conditions. Revenue for H1 2024 is estimated at €2,949.4m, equating to total growth of 3.8% with organic growth at just 0.3%, falling short of expectations.

Despite slower growth, Sopra Steria's operating margin on business activity improved to 9.7%, up 0.9 points from the same period last year. This improvement allows the company to maintain its full-year operating margin target of between 9.5% and 10.0%.

CEO Cyril Malargé cited several factors impacting the company's growth outlook, including increased uncertainty in the French market, short-term difficulties in the aeronautics sector, and delays in a significant UK contract. As a result, Sopra Steria has adjusted its full-year 2024 forecast, now expecting relatively stable organic revenue growth compared to the previous year.

The company also noted the planned sale of Sopra Banking Software, expected to be finalised by September 2024 first announced back in February (see here).

Despite the challenges, Sopra Steria remains focused on shifting towards higher value-added offerings, which is beginning to yield some positive results in terms of profitability. The company aims to achieve an operating margin on business activity of at least 9.7% for the full year 2024.

Sopra Steria will release its final H1 2024 results next Wednesday when we will cover in more detail.

Posted by: Marc Hardwick at 07:09

Tags: results  

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Thursday 18 July 2024

Serco strengthens in digital

SercoSerco has made an interesting appointment this week, naming Tom Read to the newly created role of Group Chief Digital and Technology Officer.

As previously reported, Serco's service delivery has traditionally centred on "people-heavy services" (legacy BPO). However, the company is increasingly adopting technology, with several AI pilot programs already in operation. This shift includes a new strategic partnership with Microsoft UK to drive the firm's digital transformation. One notable pilot project uses Microsoft's VisionAI products to automatically identify, classify, and retrieve prisoner property, potentially improving processing times. Additionally, Serco is collaborating with AutogenAI, a UK-based startup, to automate and enhance its bidding process  (see Serco partners with AutogenAI to automate bid writing). This experimentation, coupled with a broader efficiency focus, should contribute to significant productivity improvements.

This strategic direction necessitates new skills and leadership. Serco has chosen to bring on board Tom Read, a digital and technology specialist focused on human-centred design. Prior to joining Serco, Read served as CEO and Director General of the Government Digital Service (GDS) in the Cabinet Office - the UK Government's centre of excellence for digital product development. His experience also includes four years as Chief Digital Officer at the UK's Ministry of Justice, as well as CTO roles at the Department of Business and the Cabinet Office. Read's domain knowledge appears to align perfectly with Serco's target area – the intersection of citizen/government services and digital technology.

ReadIn his new role, Read (pictured) will "lead Serco's efforts to harness advanced technology to enhance the safety and efficiency of its operations, drive strategic growth and deliver innovation to clients." His responsibilities will include overseeing the firm's digital and cybersecurity strategy, IT infrastructure, and the adoption and scaling of new technology platforms.

This appointment underscores Serco's commitment to digital transformation and positions the company to leverage cutting-edge technology in its service delivery model.

Posted by: Marc Hardwick at 13:53

Tags: bpo   appointment   digital+transformation  

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Thursday 18 July 2024

King’s Speech introduces government plans for digital, data and cyber

Parliament logoYesterday's King's Speech marked the opening of the first session of the new parliament. It introduced 40 bills, broadly aligned to the five missions detailed in Labour's manifesto, many of which will have an impact on the tech sector.

The bills are divided into areas of Economic Stability & Growth; Great British Energy & Clean Energy Superpower; Secure Borders, Cracking Down on Anti-Social Behaviour & Take Back Our Streets; Break Down the Barriers to Opportunity; Health; National Security & Serving the Country.

The main areas of interest for the software and IT services community will be the Digital Information & Smart Data Bill and the Cyber Security & Resilience Bill, but digital technology plays a role in many of the bills. This includes: introducing digital pay-as-you-go and digital season ticketing across the whole rail network (Railways Bill); ensuring the UK is at the front of the global race for green energy technology (Great British Energy Bill); enabling the UK to keep pace with technological advances, such as AI, and reflecting the challenges of digital borders (Product Safety and Metrology Bill); enabling The Crown Estate to invest in areas such as digital technologies to support offshore energy development (The Crown Estate Bill); and creating a digital private rented sector database (Renters' Rights Bill).

The Planning & Infrastructure Bill aims to accelerate the delivery of major infrastructure projects in alignment with a new industrial strategy. Based on manifesto pledges, this is expected to include removing planning barriers to new datacentres.

The aim of the Digital Information & Smart Data Bill, which sits under the theme of Economic Stability & Growth, is to harness the power of data for economic growth, to support a modern digital government, and to improve people's lives. It replaces the Data Protection & Digital Information Bill, which failed to pass as part of the election wash-up period. It features plans to establish Digital Verification Services; develop a National Underground Asset Register; and set up Smart Data schemes to facilitate secure sharing of customer data. It also intends to enable more and better digital public services (see DSIT to become centre of digital government); help scientists make better use of data for research; and ensure data is well protected by modernising and strengthening the ICO.

The King said, the government will "seek to establish the appropriate legislation to place requirements on those working to develop the most powerful artificial intelligence models". The Prime Minister also said, "we will harness the power of artificial intelligence as we look to strengthen safety frameworks"; however, no specific AI Bill was introduced and no further detail was provided in the government's briefing notes.

The Cyber Security & Resilience Bill, under the theme of National Security & Serving the Country, intends to strengthen the UK's cyber defences, address vulnerabilities and protect the digital economy to deliver growth. This includes expanding the remit of existing regulation, putting regulators on a stronger footing, and increasing reporting requirements. It highlights the recent attacks on London hospitals, MOD, British Library and Royal Mail and the increasing threat from hostile states and state-sponsored actors as evidence for the need for change.

It is hard to comment further without additional detail on these bills, but they appear to be considered and sensible in their approach. Technology is clearly going to play a pivotal role in government's plans to unlock growth, which will be welcomed by the software and IT services sector. However, the lack of a specific AI Bill will be questioned by many and the government's plans to establish the appropriate legislation in this area will be watched carefully.

The background briefing notes for the King's Speech can be found here. The Lords' debates on the King's Speech will take place over six days between 18th and 25th July.

Posted by: Dale Peters at 10:05

Tags: strategy   policy   government   regulation   digital   AI   data   cybersecurity  

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Thursday 18 July 2024

LDC-backed IEG4 buys Agile Applications

IEG4 logoIn the last few years, there have been two significant events for IEG4. Firstly, at the end of 2021, the company, which provides SaaS-based digital solutions for the UK public sector, secured a minority (30%) stake from mid-market PE firm, LDC (see *UKHotViewsExtra* IEG4 secures LDC investment to scale the business | TechMarketView). Then, just over a year ago, IEG4 appointed its first new CEO in 19 years (New CEO for IEG4 after 19 years | TechMarketView). Following several years of strong organic growth, both events signalled a desire to accelerate investment in the business and fuel further growth.

Now, the former TechMarketView Little British Battler (see Little British Battlers – The Sixth Sense | TechMarketView) has made its first ever acquisition, bringing Agile Applications into the fold. The move is backed by LDC. Like IEG4, Agile Applications operates in the UKI local government market, delivering “primarily SaaS software solutions” to its clients.

The Agile Applications Group includes three main companies: Agile Applications Ltd, Sun Agile Software S.L., and Clear Skies Software Ltd). In the year to 31st December 2023 its turnover increased from £2.6m to £3.2m. The operating profit was £287k compared to a loss of £602k the previous year.  

Agile Applications has over 200 clients and its products provide solutions for departments such as Planning and Enforcement, Building Control, Public Protection, Waste and Recycling, and Bereavement. Over the last couple of years, it has been investing to improve its product portfolio. In the financial year to 31st December 2023, it employed 49 people. By comparison, in the last accounts available for IEG4, its employee headcount was 29.

At IEG4, the company’s key offering in local government is its Digital Experience Platform, which comprises numerous modules covering a range of local government services, including areas like Revenues & Benefits. It makes sense that the Platform will be enhanced to cover additional local government service areas. Some of those modules, like Waste Management and Bereavement Services, mirror the Agile Applications portfolio. LDC talks of the offering as being complementary to IEG4, so it will be interesting to see how those offerings develop in the months to come. As the businesses use similar technologies, LDC and IEG4 envisage a “seamless integration process” and the ability to quickly capitalise on opportunities.

Posted by: Georgina O'Toole at 09:43

Tags: acquisition   health   M&A   public+sector   Local Government  

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Thursday 18 July 2024

Darktrace updates on FY as acquisition beckons

DarktraceSoon to be taken private (Darktrace shareholders approve Thoma Bravo offer) UK Cyber player Darktrace updated the market this morning on its Q4 and FY performance.

Revenue for FY 2024 is expected to come in at least at $689.5m which would represent YoY growth of c.26.4%. This includes Q4 revenue of c.$183.1m, reflecting YoY growth of at least 24.6%. Darktrace's Annualised recurring revenue (ARR) on 30th June this year was $782.2m, which equates to YoY growth of 22.7%. This implies Net ARR added for the year of $144.9m, a YoY decline of -0.3%. In Q4 the business added net ARR of $51.1m up 12.4% in constant currency. This marks an acceleration in YoY growth and the third consecutive quarter of growth in Net ARR.

At the end of June Darktrace had a total of 9,735 customers, up 10.6% YoY having added 936 net new customers since June 2023. One-year gross ARR churn at 30th June 2024 was 6.3%, a 0.3% point improvement on March 2024 and a 0.5% point improvement YoY. Darktrace's management points to a “relatively stable” cost profile, leading it to expect a full-year Gross margin in the range of recent reported periods - Adjusted EBITDA margin for Q3 was north of 21%. However, given the regulations governing, and market practices surrounding, the proposed Thoma Bravo acquisition (see Dark day for UK tech), Darktrace is not providing its expected FY 2024 adjusted EBITDA margin or an outlook for its FY 2025 performance. Darktrace will update investors on its full FY 2024 results in due course when we will comment further.

Posted by: Marc Hardwick at 09:28

Tags: cyber   trading update  

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Thursday 18 July 2024

Temenos and Visa announce payments tie-up

TemenosAhead of its Q2 results, which are due out next week, leading banking software vendor, Temenos, has announced a new partnership with global payments provider, Visa. As a result of the collaboration, Visa Direct will be integrated into the Temenos Payments Hub and made available via the Temenos Exchange, the Swiss vendor’s marketplace of partner solutions.

VisaBuilt on a flexible cloud-native, API-first architecture, the Temenos Payments Hub manages multiple payment clearing rails and services, as well as multiple payment types and schemes. The highly scalable technology utilises smart routing and is capable of meeting the demands of a rapidly evolving payments landscape.

For its part, Visa Direct provides real-time, domestic and international payments. As a result of the integration with the Temenos Payments Hub, Temenos customers will be able to utilise the comprehensive capabilities of Visa Direct. Users will also be able to consolidate their payment services via the Temenos platform, connecting multiple payment channels with numerous clearing and distribution networks.

Posted by: Jon C Davies at 09:01

Tags: payments  

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Thursday 18 July 2024

Accenture finds Logic compelling

LogoAccenture has entered into an agreement to buy retail technology specialist Logic. The move will boost the acquirer’s sector capabilities in merchandising, stores, digital, analytics and cloud. Terms of the transaction have not been disclosed.

Founded in 1997, Minneapolis-HQ’d Logic employs some 800 professionals and generates annualLogo revenue in excess of $150m. The company has offices in 11 countries. Trading as Logicinfo Consulting in the UK and based in Reading, the firm reported sales here of £4.24m in 2022 up from £1.34m in the previous year. Worldwide, Logic serves more than 150 retail clients including 7-Eleven, Louis Vuitton, Makro and Ralph Lauren.

The purchase will not make a material difference to the scale of Accenture’s resources in the vertical. The Consumer Goods, Retail and Travel Services sector generates around 14% of the firm’s $60+bn global turnover. The addition of Logic’s expertise and industry-specific skills is nonetheless timely. In our recent Market Trends and Forecasts 2024 report we observed that, after experiencing a real-terms decline in demand last year, Software and IT Services sales to retail sector are set see growth accelerate as we head into 2025.

Posted by: Duncan Aitchison at 08:52

Tags: acquisition   retail   IT+services  

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Wednesday 17 July 2024

Fujitsu strengthens GenAI offer with Cohere partnership

fujitsuFujitsu has made what it calls a “significant investment” in North America-headquartered, Cohere.

Cohere builds enterprise-grade frontier AI models, which are cloud agnostic. The two firms will enter into a strategic agreement, which will see them create a Large Language Model (LLM) with Japanese language capabilities. Tentatively named Takane, these technologies will be available through Fujitsu Kozuchi, which is the firm’s set of AI services, from September. Customer’s will be able to use the product in private environments, such as private clouds, in a “guaranteed secure environment”.  Fujitsu’s heritage and long-established presence in Japanese enterprise will of course be an essential component in making this venture a success.

Cohere and Fujitsu will also work on jointly developing services for the global market, which will see AI technology delivered to customers through the Fujitsu Data Intelligence PaaS (its cloud-based operation platform).

This agreement is a neat add-on to Fujitsu’s GenAI portfolio of capabilities, which is one of the areas where R&D investment is being “strengthened”. We are particularly keen, however, to see how well it gets on with those services for the global market. Historically, Fujitsu has not always been consistently successful in taking what is often impressive engineering and technology capability and rolling it out on the global commercial stage.

Posted by: Kate Hanaghan at 09:50

Tags: investment  

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Wednesday 17 July 2024

Boden flies the nest as interest in AI ramps up

StarlingAnne Boden, who alongside Julian Sawyer, co-founded UK challenger bank, Starling, has reportedly severed her ties with the business to apparently focus on a new AI-focused startup venture. Having resigned as Starling’s CEO in 2023, due to a potential conflict of interest, Boden has now stepped down as a non-executive director and quit the board.

Around the same time that Boden stepped down as Starling CEO, the company name AI by Boden Limited was registered with Companies House, with Anne Boden recorded as the sole director. Boden has previously described AI by Boden as a platform for her own personal interests in AI and industry disruption. Meanwhile, in March this year, Starling selected the CEO of energy provider Ovo, to replace Boden as the bank’s new leader. Previously head of digital banking at HSBC Bhatia replaced John Mountain who has been acting up as interim CEO.

In some ways Boden’s move from fintech founder to AI entrepreneur might be considered something of a barometer for the prevailing tech trends. Starling’s creation coincided with the beginning of technology’s powerful disruptive influence over the banking industry and the start of the fintech sector’s strong early momentum. Now in 2024, the fintech sector and banking transformation are far more mature, whilst many indicators suggest than an AI revolution may be at our door.

Posted by: Jon C Davies at 09:25

Tags: banking   AI  

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Wednesday 17 July 2024

Cirata secures fresh cash injection

LogoOver the last twenty for hours, Cirata - the new name for troubled data migration specialist WANdisco – has completed an equity fundraise which secured gross proceeds of £5.6m. The move comes as no surprise. In our coverage of the company’s first quarter results, we noted that Cirata’s then cash burn rate left it with less than nine months of runway (see here). The new monies will be used to shore up the company’s balance sheet and take the business through to its aspiration of being cash flow break-even as it exits FY24.

The fundraise comprised four components: a placing, a direct subscription by certain third party investors, a management subscription and a retail offer. The latter had aimed to raise up to £1m of the cash sought but attracted barely a tenth of this figure. Cirata’s retail investor base still bears the scars of the massively dilutive fund raise triggered twelve months ago following the discovery of  “significant, sophisticated and potentially fraudulent irregularities” with WANdisco’s finances (see here).

There has been progress made on the company turnaround over the last year (see Cirata shifts focus from turnaround to growth). Q124, however, got off to a slow start. The company’s latest trading update posted yesterday (16th July) afternoon still leaves a lot riding on a big finish to FY24 if the company’s bookings guidance of $13-15m for the current fiscal is to be delivered.

Q2, the three months ended 30th June, saw the company close sales worth $1.7m to bring the total bookings for H124 to $2.4m. Deal slippage remained a feature of the second quarter performance. Cirata believes that its new business pipeline is sufficiently robust to make reaching the FY24 bookings target “achievable although demanding”, noting that both strong execution is required and sales success will be Q4 weighted. No guessing what CEO, Stephen Kelly will be asking Santa for this Christmas.

Posted by: Duncan Aitchison at 09:21

Tags: funding   sofftware   data   trading update  

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Wednesday 17 July 2024

CMA launches investigation into Microsoft hiring from Inflection AI

logoThe Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has launched a formal investigation into Microsoft's recruitment of staff from AI startup Inflection AI, to determine if it constitutes a de-facto merger, potentially stifling competition. The move comes after the CMA gathered "sufficient information" regarding Microsoft's hiring and "associated arrangements" with the startup.

In March, Microsoft made a significant move to poach a number of key personnel from inflection AI, including co-founder and CEO, Mustafa Suleyman (who was also co-founder of Google Deepmind). Microsoft also reportedly entered into a "non-exclusive licensing deal" to use the company's AI models, which all came at a quite exorbitant cost of an estimated $650m. Suleyman is now running a newly formed consumer AI unit, called Microsoft AI, while many of Inflection’s staff also joined, including co-founder Karén Simonyan who is now the chief scientist of Microsoft AI. In April, Microsoft announced it was setting up a new AI R&D hub in London in an effort to attract and retain talent, which will be led by former Inflection AI engineer Jordan Hoffman. (See Microsoft announces London AI hub for R&D).

In my view it is a rather strange and perplexing use of the CMA’s time. The tech industry has always seen a significant churn in personnel, with key talent often switching sides, to classify this as a merger or even that it could impact competition in a meaningful sense seems to be a real stretch. Yes, this has left Inflection pretty much sunk, and it is now pivoting to providing enterprise offerings, focusing on its AI suite business where it builds and tests GenAI models. But in truth Inflection was already quite a way behind the major competition when it came to building its own LLM, and at this stage the market has already largely consolidated around OpenAI, Anthropic, Google and Meta.

There are still other options of course from the likes of IBM (with its Granite models), Mistral and Cohere, but it feels like the LLM supplier ecosystem will ultimately go the way of the hyperscalers, with a few suppliers serving as a foundation for a wide range of organisations to tailor and refine their own AI models, engines and applications. We will have to see what conclusion the CMA reaches, but its hard to see a practical means to force individual people to leave the company, and I highly doubt they would go back to Inflection, so any impact feels minimal.

Posted by: Simon Baxter at 09:08

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Wednesday 17 July 2024

Huma raises $80m and aims to become the Shopify for digital health

Huma logoHealthcare AI company Huma Therapeutics has announced the completion of its Series D funding round and the launch of a new digital ecosystem, Huma Cloud Platform, which it describes as the Shopify for digital health.

The latest funding round, alongside additional investment from industry partners since Huma closed its Series C round, has raised over $80m. The round saw participation from both new and existing investors, including AstraZeneca, Hat Technology Fund 4 by HAT SGR, HV Fund by Hitachi Ventures and Leaps by Bayer. It takes total investment to date to over $300m.

The company, which is headquartered in London but has offices in New York, Shanghai and Hamburg, was founded in 2011. Originally called Medopad, it changed its name to Huma in 2020 (see Ambitious Medopad rebrands and expands). The company has made several strategic acquisitions over its history, including Sherbit in 2018 (see Medopad acquires Sherbit in US expansion), BioBeats and Tarilian Laser Technologies in 2020, iPLATO Healthcare in 2022, and Alcedis in 2023 (see Huma enhances clinical trials expertise with Alcedis acquisition). In 2022, it also acquired AstraZeneca's chronic disease management platform, AMAZE, in a deal that saw the two companies enter into a collaboration agreement.

Its new Huma Cloud Platform is intended to act as an ecosystem to support the company's technology solutions; however, it will also support pharmaceutical companies and other enterprises to launch and scale their own digital health projects. The platform provides a no-code configuration of disease management tools, a library of pre-built modules and device connectivity capabilities, a cloud-agnostic framework for hosting, APIs and integration capabilities, the ability to host and deploy diagnostic and predictive AI algorithms, and a digital marketplace. Huma will also draw on its partnership with Google to offer GenAI tools to improve the speed of development.

There should also be improvements in the speed of getting new regulated applications to market. Huma has already achieved regulatory approval for its platforms, including EU MDR Class IIb, US FDA (510-k) Class II clearance and Class IIb registration with the UK MHRA.

Details of how the commercial terms will work for Huma Cloud Platform have not yet been disclosed, so it remains to be seen if this will truly become the Shopify for digital health. The technology world is full of examples of companies claiming to be the Netflix, Spotify or Shopify of their market, but very few truly achieve that status.

Posted by: Dale Peters at 09:05

Tags: funding   startup   AI   scaleup   healthcare   healthtech   life+sciences  

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