The digital business week

19 Apr 2010

A digest of the top business and technology news stories from the past week.

160 tech jobs to be created at Cork firm VoxPro

Cork business process outsourcing provider VoxPro is to create 160 new jobs before the end of the year in a move that will double the firm’s workforce to more than 300 people.

The positions will be mainly for multi-lingual graduates. VoxPro specialises in customer service, technical support, appointment management, back office processing and telemarketing for client companies globally.

“This is the second major jobs announcement for Cork in the same week,” said the Minister for Enterprise, Trade & Employment Batt O’Keeffe. “The jobs come after I announced 300 high-value jobs for Abtran earlier this week which will be created over the next three years as part of a €3.5m investment in research and development.

“VoxPro is the kind of export-led innovation-intensive company that is well-aligned with the Government’s plan for the smart economy.”

Sony Ericsson reports surprise return to profitability

Mobile phone manufacturer Sony Ericsson has reported a surprise return to profitability during its first quarter, despite a 19pc fall in sales during the period, thanks to its decision to focus on higher-end phones.

The phone maker said it made a pre-tax profit of €18m during the first three months of the year. This is compared to the loss of €190m the group made during the previous quarter and the loss of €370m it made during the same quarter in 2009.

The company shipped 10.5m units in the first quarter, a decrease of 28pc compared to the same period last year. This, Sony Ericsson said, reflected the streamlining of its portfolio over the past 12 months to focus on higher-end phones. Sales for the quarter were €1.4bn, a decrease of 19pc year-on-year.

However, the company’s average selling price (ASP) for a mobile phone increased 12pc both sequentially and year-on-year to €134 during the quarter. This was due to good sell-through of existing models, new flagship phones starting to ship at the end of the quarter and a positive currency effect, Sony Ericsson said.

Google revenues up 23pc as it plans to invest in open web

Google plans to invest heavily in innovation and cement the future of the open web, the company said after reporting a 23pc increase in revenues to US$6.7bn in the first quarter.

Net income in the first quarter of 2010 was US$1.96bn, compared to US$1.42bn in the first quarter of 2009.

Google reported revenues of US$6.77bn in the first quarter of 2010, representing a 23pc increase over first-quarter 2009 revenues of US$5.51bn.

“Google performed very well in the first quarter, with 23pc year-over-year revenue growth driven by strength across all major verticals and geographies,” said Patrick Pichette, CFO of Google.

“Going forward, we remain committed to heavy investment in innovation – both to spur future growth in our core and emerging businesses, as well as to help build the future of the open web,” Pichette said.

300 out of 1,900 former Dell workers received FAS training

The Steering Committee responsible for advising on the implementation of the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF) for the 1,900 former Dell workers in Limerick has revealed that 300 have received FAS training so far.

Earlier last year, Limerick woke to the news that 1,900 people were to be made redundant at the operation which, with an output of €8bn a year, was considered Dell’s most productive plant on the planet.

But there’s some good news for the beleaguered city. Last week, it emerged that Dell is recruiting again for 100 jobs at its plants in Cherrywood, Co Dublin, and in Limerick.

The Steering Committee set up to rehabilitate the 1,900 former Dell workers and workers at ancillary enterprises made redundant last year have met to discuss progress.

The committee includes a number of former workers from Dell and the other companies, as well as representatives and stakeholders from industry, the educational and entrepreneurial support sectors and relevant State agencies, and is chaired by Oliver Egan, assistant director general in FAS.

Another meeting is scheduled for towards the end of this month.

PC industry’s dramatic return to 24pc growth in Q1

The global PC market grew 24.2pc in the first quarter of this year – a vast improvement on the same period last year when the industry recorded its lowest growth of just 7pc.

According to IDC’s Quarterly PC Tracker, both desktop and portable PC shipments exceeded expectations, with solid growth rates driven by sustained consumer demand and renewed commercial buying.

The year-over-year gain in desktop PCs reverses a series of quarterly declines that began in the third quarter of 2008. IDC attributes the renewed growth to continued recovery in emerging markets, improved business sentiments, and growth of specialised designs like All-in-One PCs.

“The strong first quarter builds on the fourth-quarter rebound and shows rising confidence in the PC supply chain and commercial client base along with persistent demand from consumers,” said Loren Loverde, vice-president, IDC Worldwide Trackers.

Website design firm to create 40 jobs

Website design company Brywest Enterprises is to create 40 new jobs in Mullingar, Co Westmeath.

The expansion of the company’s ‘farmers forum’ portal, a new resource for the agriculture sector, is the reason for the new positions, 15 of which will come online shortly.

Most of the remaining roles will consist of field sales-based jobs located around Ireland.

Belfast’s Andor Technology buys US firm Photonic

The Belfast-based technology firm Andor Technology, which develops and manufactures global scientific digital cameras, has bought US high-tech company Photonic.

Andor is paying US $5m in cash for Photonic and more than 156,000 Andor shares of 2p each. An additional US$1.95m may be payable by Andor if Photonic exceeds certain order targets and product development goals in the 18 months following completion of the deal.

Photonic is a developer, manufacturer and supplier of laser and lamp-based illumination and ablation systems. Its Micropoint and patented Mosaic products are market leaders in fluorescence imaging and laser ablation for confocal and wide field microscopy.

Photonic’s business currently operates from two locations in the US. However, manufacturing will transfer to Andor’s facility in Belfast within the first year and sales will be managed from Andor’s existing US hub in Connecticut.

In the year ended 31 December 2009, Photonic reported revenue of US$3m and operating profit of US$0.8m.

By John Kennedy

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years