NCC attracts ‘internet giants’ as sales climb to £100m

IT security firm NCC Group says it has signed up internet giants and major social networks to new services it plans to launch around the .secure domain name.

The Manchester group has invested around £1.2m preparing a new division called Artemis that will offer services based on the new “top level” domain name.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the non-profit which administers domain names, is preparing to issue 1,800 new domains to increase capacity.

NCC is up against Amazon for .secure but chief executive Rob Cotton said it had signed up around 30 customers including “major global banks, internet giants and three out of four social networks” and plans to launch in March, even if it does not win the domain.

“We like to believe it’ll fall our way but if it doesn’t it’s not the end of the world because there are plenty of other ways to provide the service we are offering,” he said.

He was speaking as the group unveiled full-year figures which showed strong earnings and revenue growth against a subdued economic backdrop. In the year to May 31 the stock market-listed group said turnover climbed 13% to £99.2m (2012: £87.7m). Pre-tax profits jumped 78% to £18.7m (2012: £10.5m).

The firm, which has made a string of acquisitions in previous years, said 8% of its sales growth was classed as organic. Its order book is worth £51m. Globally NCC Group provides 15,000 worldwide organisations with IT assurance through its escrow, verification, security and software testing, audit and website performance services.

NCC said its Escrow division – which supports and maintains business-critical software – increased revenue by 2% to £28.5m (2012: £27.9m). Profitability increased 3% to £16.7m (2012: £16.3m). Assurance now accounts for 71% (2012: 68%) of group revenues with total divisional revenues increasing 18% to £70.7m (2012: £59.8m). Operating profits increased 17% to £12.0m (2012: £10.3m).

Mr Cotton added: “The group’s strong in terms of delivering good cash conversion and good margins so when it does come to inward investment, such as Artemis, we’ve been able to do that.”

Asked whether hitting £100m sales was an important milestone, Mr Cotton said: “No, it’s vanity. The key thing is a strong margin and good cash conversion.” He said the group’s margin slipped from 27% to 24% as it had diversified away from the higher margin escrow work to more assurance.

The business has around 800 staff and a market value of £260m.