Gemplus reports 100 million Euro loss after troubled year

Gemplus reports 100 million Euro loss after troubled year

Gemplus International has revealed the scale of its financial losses for 2001. The results were broadly in line with analysts expectations following the company's traumatic and highly visible post-IPO experience.

The results for 2001, a net loss of 100.2 million Euro, followed a net profit of 99.1 million Euro in 2000. The company, which produces smart cards for a number of industries including financial services, has been badly hit by the downturn in the wireless telecoms sector.

Despite the poor performance, Gemplus retains cash and equivalents of 491 million Euros. Inventory and cost cutting measures were also beginning to benefit the balance sheet.

Barely 12 months after its IPO on the Paris Stock Exchange, Gemplus parted company with its top executives. In December 2001, both Antonio Perez, Chief Executive, and Chairman, Mark Lassus, were asked to resign by the company's board following a rapid turnaround in expectations surrounding the business.

Confidence in the management evaporated quickly after the IPO as a series of staff reductions and profits warnings were announced. This performance also aroused shareholder dissatisfaction at the share and options packages awarded to senior management at the time of the IPO. Following the boardroom departures in December, Ron Mackintosh stepped in as Chief Executive Officer.

In a company statement regarding the 2001 results Mackintosh described the company's performance as 'far below inital expectations and frankly, very disappointing'. The company's strong shipments of cards to customers in the financial services sector was singled out as one of few bright spots of 2001.

Gemplus is said to be conducting an extensive review of its business operations and strategic options. Previous plans to acquire related software technology organisations have been shelved. Mackintosh also highlighted the need to bring the company's cost structure in line with the current business environment and promised further action on this front.

The boardroom soap opera however continued. The most recently announced departure is that of Steve Gomo the Chief Financial Officer, who stays with the company until March before leaving 'to pursue other opportunities'.

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