A digest of the top business and technology news stories from the past week.
Venture capital investment in Irish firms up 52pc
The Enterprise Ireland Seed & Venture Capital Report 2009 highlights a significant increase in seed and early stage funding for entrepreneurs and business start-ups.
Feargal Ó Móráin, director of Corporate and Investment Services at Enterprise Ireland, said that despite the difficult climate for business, Irish venture capital firms supported by Enterprise made 87 investments with a value of €52m in 2009, marking a 53pc increase on the value of investments in 2008.
The number of new companies invested in during the year, at 25, also represented a significant increase of 47pc on the previous year.
Another highlight of the year was the significant increase in seed funding made available to meet the urgent need for capital for entrepreneurs and early stage start-ups.
Dell in US$100m fraud settlement with SEC
Dell has agreed to pay the US Securities and Exchanges Commission US$100m and CEO and founder Michael Dell will pay another US$4m to settle a long-running case over alleged fraudulent accounting methods to achieve earnings targets.
Dell allegedly also failed to tell regulatory authorities about “exclusivity payments” from Intel to forego using rival chipmakers’ products, the SEC said. After Intel cut these payments, Dell again misled investors by not disclosing the true reason behind the company’s decreased profitability, the SEC said.
Dell Inc. agreed to pay a US$100m penalty to settle the SEC’s charges. Michael Dell and former CEO Kevin Rollins each agreed to pay a US$4m penalty, and former CFO James Schneider agreed to pay US$3m, to settle the SEC’s charges against them.
“The board believes that this settlement is in the best interest of the company, its customers and its shareholders, as it brings a five-year SEC investigation to closure,” said Sam Nunn, presiding director of the Dell board.
Windows 7 and Office 10 drive a US$16bn Q4 for Microsoft
The world’s largest software company, Microsoft, reported 175 million licence sales of Windows 7 during the fourth quarter and strong demand for Office 10, resulting in a resounding Q4 with revenues up 22pc year-on-year to US$16.04bn.
Operating income for the fourth quarter was US$5.9bn, up 49pc, and the company turned in a net profit of US$4.5bn, up 48pc on last year.
“This quarter’s record revenue reflects the breadth of our offerings and our continued product momentum,” said Peter Klein, chief financial officer.
“The revenue growth, combined with our ongoing cost discipline, helped us achieve another quarter of margin expansion.”
Product momentum continued during the quarter with the successful launch of Office 2010 and strong performance from existing products, including Windows 7, which has sold more than 175 million licences to date, Windows Server, Xbox and Bing, which achieved its 13th consecutive month of share gain.
“We saw strong sales execution across all of our businesses, particularly in the enterprise with Windows 7 and Office 2010,” said Kevin Turner, chief operating officer.
Mobility a key driver as Amazon sales hit US$6.5bn
The smartphone is the leading mobile commerce device and the new class of tablet computers will also change the game, said Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos as the online retailer delivered second-quarter profits of US$207m.
Amazon reported operating cash flow was US$2.56bn, compared with US$1.88bn the previous year.
Net sales increased 41pc to US$6.57bn in the second quarter, compared with US$4.65bn in second quarter 2009. Excluding the US$48m unfavourable impact from year-over-year changes in foreign exchange rates throughout the quarter, net sales would have grown 42pc compared with second quarter 2009.
Operating income increased 71pc to US$270m in the second quarter, compared with US$159m in second quarter 2009.
Net income increased 45pc to US$207m in the second quarter, or US$0.45 per diluted share, compared with net income of US$142m, or US$0.32 per diluted share, in second quarter 2009.
“We’re seeing rapid growth in Kindle, Amazon Web Services, third-party sales and retail. We’re also encouraged by what we see in mobile. In the last 12 months, customers around the world have ordered more than US$1bn of products from Amazon using a mobile device,” said Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com.
“The leading mobile commerce device today is the smartphone, but we’re excited by the potential of the new category of wireless tablet computers. Over time, tablet computers could become a meaningful additional driver for our business.”
Ireland’s first software billionaire’s US$415m first half
Autonomy Corporation, a global leader in IT infrastructure software headquartered in Cambridge in the UK, has reported six-month revenues of US$415.3m, up 28pc on last year.
The company reported overall organic growth of 14pc. Gross profits were up 26pc on last year to US$363.4m.
Cambridge-based and London Stock Exchange-listed Autonomy develops infrastructure technology that has been adopted by enterprises to process information across all internal and external data sources and counts customers such as US federal government agencies, Cisco Systems, the US Library of Commerce, ABN Amro, Forbes, Johnson & Johnson and Banco de Espana.
Lynch set up Autonomy in 1996 as a spinoff from his first company, Cambridge Neurodynamics, which began with a personal loan. In 2006, the company turned in revenues of US$250m for the year. At one point in Autonomy’s history, the company had a market capitalisation of £8bn sterling.