Autonomy is upbeat after surge in sales

BRITAIN’S biggest software firm took on the doubters yesterday, as it reported a 53 per cent jump in fourth quarter sales.

Founder and chief executive Dr Mike Lynch – often dubbed Britain’s Bill Gates – said improvements in the macroeconomic environment would push sales higher in 2010.

The firm said that a fall in margins in the third quarter due to the development of a new piece of software had been a one-off, with gross operating margins recovering to 44 per cent.

Its shares have performed well in recent years, but analysts have raised doubts over its ability to maintain its scorching growth rate and its sketchy ability to convert sales to cash.

Autonomy specialises in software that can understand human interaction, using complex mathematical equations to spot patterns in emails, telephone calls and other documents.

Its clients include the Financial Services Authority, which uses its software to detect fraud, and the US Department of Homeland Security, which uses it to try and prevent terrorism.

Full-year pre-tax profits jumped 55 per cent to $323m (£203m) on full year revenues that rose 47 per cent to $740m, with 16 per cent from organic growth and the rest from the buyout of US rival Interwoven early on in the year. Autonomy’s shares closed 1.5 per cent higher yesterday at 1,593p.