By Tony Collins
The share price of outsourcing specialist Capita fell 27% yesterday, a record one-day fall for the company. It was down a further 5% this morning (10.30 am, 30 September 2016).
The company said in a regulatory statement yesterday it is taking immediate steps to reduce the cost base in its underperforming businesses, which should benefit its 2017 results.
Some customers may be entitled to ask whether the transformation-based outsourcing services they are buying from Capita will be affected by any of the company’s financial pressures.
In local government Capita has what it calls “transformational partnerships” with Sheffield City Council, Southampton City Council, London Borough of Barnet, Blackburn with Darwen Council, North Tyneside, West Sussex County Council and Oxfordshire County Council.
Capita also has a joint venture agreement with Birmingham City Council, in a partnership that goes by the name of “Service Birmingham”.
Capita’s regulatory announcement yesterday said “our performance in the second half of the year to date has been below expectations, as a result of a slow-down in specific trading businesses, one-off costs incurred on the Transport for London (TfL) congestion charging contract and continued delays in client decision making”.
The company’s trading update said,
“Capita is taking immediate steps to reduce the cost base in the underperforming businesses, which should benefit 2017.”
Capita expects that capital expenditure will be lower than last year.
Outsourcing advocates may see the slow-down as temporary problem for Capita – and indeed the company has announced £949m of “major contract wins in the year to date, including being recently selected by Three as the preferred bidder for a contract to provide customer management services in the UK, which is expected to start in 2017”.
It added, though, that “revenue from new major sales in the second half of this year is likely to be lower than expected, due to continued delays in decision making and lower conversion of our pipeline”.
Other observers of the outsourcing market may wonder whether major suppliers will always have enough margin to transform a customer’s business, including big new investments in ICT, while continuing to run the client’s operations successfully.
In yesterday’s trading update, Capita referred to problems on two contracts, one with Transport for London and another with the Co-op Bank. It said:
“We have experienced delays on the implementation of new IT systems on the Transport for London (TfL) congestion charging contract.
“As a result, we expect to incur between £20m and £25m of one-off costs, which will be included in our underlying results. The systems have now gone live, the contract is performing well operationally and these costs will not recur next year.
“Furthermore, we are in a contractual dispute with the Co-op Bank regarding obligations relating to the transformation of services. The ongoing mortgage processing being undertaken by Capita is performing well. However, there is a risk of litigation in respect of the transformation.”
Capita’s chief executive Andy Parker was reported in The Telegraph as saying there was a “high” risk of litigation with Co-op Bank over its contract to help administer mortgages.
“Everything’s ready to go and the client is refusing to sign off for one reason only – if they sign off, they have to pay us,” he is quoted s saying. “We’re still hitting targets and delivering for this bank.”
The Co-operative Bank, for its part, suggested it is owed money for delays, and denied it has failed to pay. “The bank strongly refutes Capita’s suggestion that they have delivered an element of the transformation programme which the bank has not paid for,” Co-op Bank was quoted as saying. “In addition, there are amounts which the bank regards as owing to it by Capita.”
Co-op added that it continues to “work through” the issues with the programme.
“The bank continues to work through the issues surrounding this transformation programme with Capita. The existing outsourcing of mortgage processing to Capita both for new and existing bank customers continues to operate in a satisfactory manner and the bank is committed to ensuring that this remains the case going forward,” said the Co-op.
Transport for London
On Capita’s TfL congestion charge contract, Andy Parker said,
“The upgrade proved more complex than we anticipated and the penalties ramped up very quickly.”
At Forbes, which has ranked Capita as one of the world’s most innovative companies, a writer and analyst warned (speculatively) of the possibility of “further profit downgrades in the months to come, allied with the possibility of subdued revenues growth in the years ahead.
Analysts say Capita’s prospects may be dented by uncertainties over Brexit.
The concluding paragraph of Capita’s trading update yesterday said,
“We remain confident of the strength of our business model and aim to return the Group to profit growth next year, excluding the benefit from TfL one-off costs dropping out.”
Capita is a FTSE 100 company. In 1991 when it was floated its turnover was about £25m. Now it’s close to £5bn. It employs 75,000, about 17,000 of them abroad.
Thank you to campaigner Dave Orr for alerting me to Capita’s announcement yesterday.