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Business & Economy

Vianet Group ‘re-energised’ to grow again after COVID-19 impact

A data monitoring firm says it is primed to “exit the storm in a strong position” despite recording losses following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Vianet Group – which helps pubs monitor beer flow – swung to an annual pre-tax reverse amid widescale closures across the hospitality sector.

However, bosses at the Stockton company remain bullish, saying the health crisis has given them opportunity to “re-energise the organisation, underline our credentials and worth to customers (and) reset our technology roadmap”.

The business offers services via the Internet of Things that allow pub operators to scrutinise beer volume and flow, and provide convenience sector businesses with real-time information on vending machine stocks.

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 financial results for the year to March 31 – released today – the firm suffered a £2.82 million pre-tax loss, against £2.4 million profit the year previously, as closures to pubs, restaurants and offices during COVID-19 lockdowns knocked its progress.

Furthermore, it saw revenue fall 48 per cent to £8.37 million.

Nevertheless, officials say it remains well placed to grow again, pointing to measures implemented – such as previously-announced reductions to customer charges to retain business – and increased demand for telemetry and contactless units, which helped limit adjusted operating losses to £690,000.

James Dickson, Vianet Group chairman, said: “As a business dependent on the hospitality and leisure sectors, the pandemic has been a challenging period.

“Despite this, we have navigated the challenges well, focusing on preserving cash and maintaining strong relations with customers.

“Thanks to the success of these measures, plus the roll-out of the vaccines and the easing of restrictions, the company is coming out of the lockdown phases strongly and in a position to capitalise upon the excellent growth opportunities available.

He added: “In Smart Machines, unattended machines have been operating throughout the pandemic in sites for essential workers, with a material increase in the use of contactless payments. We fully expect this trend to continue post-lockdown and, as such, envisage further demand for remote connection to unattended retail assets.

“Smart Zones is set to recover in line with the UK pub and US hospitality markets, as well as gaining revenue momentum from its market and retail data insight services.

“As we exit the lockdown phases, our draught beer insights remain highly valuable for customers to understand trading performance and patterns, and aid decision-making.”