UK life and pensions software vendor Marlborough Stirling has put itself up for sale after warning that its recovery has been slower than anticipated and earnings lower than expected.
Futhermore, Paul Fullagar, who was appointed company chairman in September, is quitting the post "as a result of the increased demands arising from the change of strategy".
Fullagar joined Marlborough Stirling in September after the firm reported a disappointing set of interim results. At the time the firm said its was initiating a "more radical action plan" including a significant shift to the use of offshore resources.
But in the latest trading update, the company says it expects total turnover for the year ending 31 December 2004 to be less than £100 million and a number of deals seem certain to delayed, with one prospect likely to defer indefinitely.
"Given this degree of short term uncertainty, the board has concluded that shareholder value is likely to be optimised by pursuing joint venture or sale processes for some or all of the constituent parts of the group," it says.
"We will now commence a process in conjunction with our bankers to engage with potential partners who may wish to enter more formal joint venture or acquisition discussions."
The vendor suspended trading in its shares yesterday as an attempt by former chairman Huw Evans to offload his 7.7% stake in the firm drove the share price down.
The attempted sell-off, coming ahead of an unexpected profits warning, provoked fury among City fund managers, according to a report in the Times.
The latest trading update took the City by surprise as Marlborough Stirling had first issued a profits warning only three weeks ago, when it revealed it had failed to secure an outsourcing deal with life assurer Chesnara.
According to the Times report, as Evans had been out of the company for nearly three months, he would not have been obliged to inform the company of his sale.
Trading in Malborough Stirling shares resumed this morning, with the stock falling 11 pence to 30.50 pence by mid-morning.