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Business & Economy

Vianet Group beats forecasts as drinkers savour COVID-19 lockdown end

A data monitoring firm has reported better-than-expected trading after the lifting of the COVID-19 lockdown.

Vianet Group says revenue and profit surpassed forecasts in the first four months of the financial year.

Bosses at the Stockton company say the uptick came as drinkers returned to pubs and retailers increasingly turned to contactless payment technology.

Vianet is known for offering services via the Internet of Things that allow pub industry operators to closely scrutinise beer volume and flow and provide convenience sector businesses with real-time information on vending machine stock.

Its Smart Machines division provides real-time data collection, with its Smart Zones offer connecting multiple assets from equipment such as gaming machines and electronic point of sale payment devices.

According to a trading update revealed today (Wednesday, August 26), the business has benefited from the re-starting of society following the COVID-19 lockdown, with pubs especially providing a boost.

Officials say more than 80 per cent of its pub clients’ sites have now reopened, compared to 56 per cent six weeks ago, with beer sales performing “favourably” on a year-on-year basis.

Furthermore, the firm says a previous decision to reduce customer charges has also delivered a positive effect.

Under the terms of these agreements, Vianet is billing pubs that have reopened at 70 per cent of their normal levels until October, with the 20 per cent that are still closed paying 30 per cent of their usual charges. 

In its Smart Machines business, Vianet says it has experienced a “more positive level of trading”, thanks to more than two thirds of vending machines operating consistently and remaining on normal terms throughout the COVID-19 lockdown.

In addition, bosses say the company picked up more than 1900 new orders for telemetry and contactless units during lockdown, with sales accelerating from June. 

James Dickson, chairman, said: “Our actions to support customers and maintain investment while sustaining a good level of recurring revenue, which was ahead of our own expectations, have placed the business in a highly encouraging position to benefit from the increased demand for data insight and contactless solutions as the economy recovers.    

“We are also very much aware of the difficulties our employees have faced during this time and we are proud both of their collective response to the crisis and the fact that our level of staff engagement during this period has had strong employee approval, resulting in a significant increase in survey ratings to over 80 per cent.

“Although the COVID-19 situation remains uncertain, the board is confident we have taken the correct measures to ensure we can accelerate the momentum we had generated before the pandemic, and we look forward to updating the market in due course.”