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Bytes Technology Group PLC
LSE:BYIT

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Bytes Technology Group PLC
LSE:BYIT
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Price: 603.5 GBX 2.46% Market Closed
Updated: May 25, 2024

Earnings Call Analysis

Q2-2024 Analysis
Bytes Technology Group PLC

Bytes Reports Surge in Sales and Profits

Bytes Technologies has achieved remarkable growth, surpassing GBP 1 billion in sales for the first time in a six-month period, up nearly 38%, driven by strategic contract wins. With a key win being a 5-year NHS contract, public sector Gross Invoiced Income (GII) grew 44% to GBP 722 million, contrasting a 25.7% rise in the corporate sector to GBP 360 million. The company also invested in their workforce, increasing headcount by 10%, and distributed a 12.5% higher interim dividend of 2.7p per share. Despite a shift to lower upfront margins for strategic gains, which lead gross profit to lag behind GII growth at a 15% increase, the overall progress outlines a sustained growth trajectory and robust financial health.

Impressive Sales and Profit Growth Amid Challenging Times

Investors will be pleased to note an exceptional growth in gross invoiced income by nearly 38% reaching over GBP 1 billion for the first time in a six-month period. This remarkable milestone reflects the company's strong execution and market demand for its offerings. Furthermore, the company's gross profit also saw a significant rise of 15%, resulting in GBP 75.3 million, which can be attributed to successful sales strategies and customer value delivery.

Steady Increase in Operational Efficiency and Earnings Per Share

The adjusted operating profit climbed 13.8% to GBP 33.9 million, indicating operational efficiency and financial discipline. Additionally, under the IFRS 15 accounting standard, the revenue increased by 16.3%, and earnings per share grew by 17% to 10.6p, showcasing robust financial health and consistent shareholder value creation.

Conversion and Cash: A Tale of Discipline and Prudence

The company's AOP GP conversion rate remains an industry leader at 45%, surpassing the target of no less than 40% and moderate expectations to maintain it at or near 43% for the full year. Half-year cash conversion stood at 48.7% with a rolling cash conversion of 107% for the year ended in August 2023, a testament to efficient capital management. A healthy cash balance of GBP 51.7 million, after sizable dividend payouts and strategic investments, portrays a well-balanced approach to liquidity and growth investment.

Investing in Talent and Technology Amid Growth

Employee headcount has increased by 10% as the company invested in hiring, particularly in frontline sales, to fuel future growth. It also reports the growth in gross profit per customer by 10%, indicating an improved value extraction per relationship. With a continuously high customer retention rate, a strong emphasis on sectors like cloud computing, SaaS, and cybersecurity, and the ongoing involvement in forward-looking initiatives like Microsoft Copilot, the company is well-positioned to capture future market opportunities.

Public Sector Growth and Strategic Positioning

Contract wins led to a 44% increase in public sector gross invoiced income (GII), with corporate GII also rising by 25.7%. The company’s strategic 'land and expand' approach within the public sector resulted in lower initial margins, which is seen as an investment for future profitability enhancements over a 2 to 5 year horizon. Additionally, the substantial National Health Service (NHS) contract win is a remarkable achievement that aligns with long-term business strategies and significantly contributed to the impressive sales growth.

Solid Financial Underpinnings and Future Prospects

With an increase in profit after tax by 17.1% to GBP 25.4 million and a strong free cash flow generation during the reporting period, the company demonstrates financial vitality and operational strength. Investing back into the business with a focus on talent and a lean operational approach, as evidenced by less than GBP 900,000 spent on capital expenditures, underscores the company’s agile and efficient business model. The interim dividend raised to 2.7p per share, shows the company’s continued commitment to returning value to shareholders.

Earnings Call Transcript

Earnings Call Transcript
2024-Q2

from 0
N
Neil Murphy
executive

Good morning. I'd like to thank you for joining us for Bytes half year results presentation for the period ending August 31, 2023. Before we start, just a few words on this morning session and the order of events. Andrew, our CFO, and I will provide a short presentation lasting around 20 minutes or so, and then we'll turn to live Q&A. We are delighted to present another strong set of financial results with double-digit growth driven by contributions from all areas of the business. While the economic backdrop remains mixed, we've continued to see strong demand from our corporate and public sector customers. I want to thank our people and our partners who have worked together so well to deliver solutions for our customers. We are delighted that our customer and staff satisfaction levels continue to be amongst the best in the industry. Now let's turn to our key financial headlines for the first half. As I said a moment ago, we've delivered another strong set of sales and profit growth extending our track record of positive progress in both the top and bottom lines. Gross invoiced income or sales are up at almost 38% at just over GBP 1 billion. This marks the first time that the company has surpassed the GBP 1 billion mark in a 6-month period. This exceptional level of growth was underpinned by some large strategically important contract wins, and I'll talk a bit more about these later in our presentation. Looking at some of the other core metrics, gross profits are up by 15% to GBP 75.3 million. This has been driven by higher sales and by an increase in gross profit per customer. Adjusted operating profit is up 13.8% to GBP 33.9 million. This reflects strong demand for software, services and hardware from both our public and private sector clients. And this is all clear evidence that we are continuing to grow our market share here in the U.K. and Ireland. Reporting revenue under IFRS 15 shows a revenue increase of 16.3% for the period. We also grew earnings per share by 17% to 10.6p. Our AOP GP conversion rate remains industry-leading and ended the half at 45%. This is ahead of our target of no less than 40%, and we plan for this to be at or near 43% for the full year, as we continue to invest in new heads to ensure future growth by increasing our scale and reach. Now turning to cash conversion. Half year cash conversion of 48.7% is in line with our historical performances and long-term expectations. This reflects the seasonal timings of cash flows and our normal weighting to a much higher conversion in the second half. Our rolling cash conversion for the year ended 31st of August 2023, stood at 107% and reflects our 5-year average performance in excess of 100%. We have finished the half with a cash balance of GBP 51.7 million after having paid out GBP 30 million in dividends and having made a GBP 3 million investment in Cloud Bridge, the AWS solutions business. Now let's turn to the key ingredients of our successful first half and touch upon some of the work we've done to prepare for H2 and beyond. We've all said our culture and people are the secret source of our business formula. This continues to be true. Winning Best Places to Work awards, and having high levels of staff satisfaction, demonstrate our focus in this important area. We're very pleased with our low employee churn levels, while we continue to boost our head count to support future growth. Headcount has increased 10% in the first half, and we now have more than 1,000 employees. Although only 6 months have passed since it opened, we're delighted with the progress of our new sales office in the city of London, supporting existing clients and targeting new clients in the Square Mile. Some companies owe their success to a handful of major clients, not so at Bytes, with thousands of customers and no client contributing more than 1% of our overall gross profit, we've established a well-balanced and diverse range of clients, giving us a very resilient source of income. A key KPI for us is to grow gross profit per customer, and I'm delighted to report an increase of 10%, growing from GBP 14,800 to GBP 16,300 per customer in the first half. Our strategic relationships with the world's biggest and most successful IT companies is another key part of our business model. Our most important partner is Microsoft, and I'm pleased to say, as our relationship is deep and is diverse as ever. After more than 30 years of working together, we both continue to invest in the tremendous opportunities we both see in our existing markets. With over 200 Microsoft-certified professionals, we're excited about the announcements of forthcoming AI products in the form of Microsoft Copilot. These new tools should radically improve productivity and increase innovation. Our role as a multi-vendor reseller provides our customers with a leading selection of technology solutions to meet their specific needs. Our relationships with world-class vendors such as Adobe, AWS, IBM, Crowdstrike, Darktrace, Checkpoint and Palo Alto to name but a few, enable us to offer a diverse and dynamic set of solutions in an ever-changing environment. We remain focused on cloud computing, Software-as-a-Service, hybrid data centers and cybersecurity, which are all areas enjoying good growth. This gives us a high degree of confidence in our ability to continue our multiyear track record of growth. Now let us turn to customers. The diversity, depth and breadth of client type gives our business great resilience, especially at times of uncertainty. These relationships are underpinned by the vertical knowledge of our sales teams and a laser focus on customer care. Whether we are delivering our own IP in the form of licensed dashboard to IKEA, a long-standing customer for the last 8 years or implementing cloud solutions to one of the universities shown on the slide. We engaged knowing that the customer experience is key to their organization and to our future opportunity. As our customers face into an increasingly competitive environment, we believe IT will become an even greater competitive advantage in the years ahead. With cybersecurity threats increasing, and security of data becoming more heavily regulated by the authorities, we believe IT spend in those areas will continue to grow at pace. We will continue to expand our relevance to clients who need support and assurance as they seek to strengthen their own IT resilience and security. Our focus on cross-selling and up-selling into existing clients has allowed us to grow GP per customer by 10% so far this year. With 200 new customers in the first 6 months of the year, we have a strong pipeline to continue executing this strategy in the years ahead. As many of you will know, Bytes has a very high customer retention rate and enjoys a high level of repeat business. Our renewal rate for the half stands at 113% and 98% of business came from existing customers. This is 1% up on the corresponding period last year. This follows our normal trading pattern and should reduce to the lower 90s as we work through the year and new business becomes a bigger component of overall sales. Before we go on to the financials, I'd like to spend a bit of time on our most important single partnership, Microsoft. As I've said previously, there is no doubt in the continued importance and benefit of a strong relationship with Microsoft. We first partnered with them in the 1990s and due to our skills and capabilities, have won many global and U.K. awards from Microsoft in that time. It has been a super relationship, but on strong operational and technical commitments and multimillion pound investments on both sides. Microsoft owes its enormous success to its sell-through partner model, which enables it to reach millions of global organizations without the need for hiring thousands of sales personnel in every geography. Bytes has hundreds of people with Microsoft certifications, young, energetic capable people with a thirst for knowledge and a desire to do well. Given Microsoft's diversification into gaming and hardware, some have referred to Bytes as more Microsoft than Microsoft. And this reflects our focus on Microsoft's cloud, data and office productivity segments. Microsoft now lays claim to being the world's largest cybersecurity company, and this complements our long-term security focus, which now equates to around 25% of our overall gross profit. We're excited by the prospects for the commercial launch of Microsoft's AI-powered Copilot 365 products on November 1. As their biggest U.K. partner, we are well positioned to benefit over the next few years from Microsoft's huge investments in AI. We continue to invest in the relationship by expanding our services portfolio and by achieving the very highest technical accreditations. This further strengthens and cements our relationship with Microsoft, and it also makes us even stickier to our customer base as they come to rely on us to help them prepare for the implementation of new and existing technologies. I'll now hand over to Andrew to talk you through the financials in a bit more detail.

A
Andrew Holden
executive

Thanks, Neil. I'll now take you through our financial results for the first half of FY '24. The first 6 months of the year has seen continued double-digit growth across all our key performance indicators. GII has increased 37.6% year-on-year, with growth spread across all income streams while software sales remain our core focus, contributing 95% of the total GII. We've also seen good double-digit growth across both hardware and service sales. The group's already substantial presence in the public sector has been bolstered by several significant Microsoft contract wins, and this has resulted in our public sector GII increasing 44% to GBP 722 million, whilst our corporate GII increased 25.7% to GBP 360 million. This means our overall GII mix has moved slightly compared to last year, now with 67% generated in the public sector against corporate's 33% contribution. Gross profit increased 15% to GBP 75.3 million. This is below the growth of the GII primarily due to agreeing lower margins on some of the big strategic wins within the public sector clients. Neil will come on and talk about this later in the presentation, but this is consistent with our land and expand strategy, where we believe we can sell more to these clients, increasing profitability over the next 2 to 5 years. Administrative costs have risen slightly ahead of our growth in gross profit. This is mainly due to investing in our people with head count grade by 96 employees and rising above 1,000 for the first time. This equates to a growth of 10%, with over half of our new employees being in frontline sales. Employee costs, including commissions and share-based payments, which make up 80% of our cost base grew at 20.2%. Adjusted operating profit, which excludes amortization of acquired intangibles and share-based payments is up 13.8% to GBP 33.9 million. The net finance income of GBP 2.7 million relates to the interest earned from positive cash balances, as everyone is aware, corporate tax increased to 25% on the 1st of April. This, plus our growth has meant that our income tax expense has increased by 49% to GBP 7.9 million. This makes our effective tax rate for the first half, 23.8%. Profit after tax increased 17.1% to GBP 25.4 million, with the impact of higher tax rates, largely being offset by interest income. Free cash flow from operations was strong during the reporting period, generating a positive net inflow of GBP 16.5 million. During the period, we invested GBP 3 million into acquiring the 25.1% stake in our AWS service partner, Cloud Bridge. This has given us access to over 80 skilled resources, allows us to present a multi-cloud strategy to our customers and maintains internal focus on our Microsoft offerings. After this investment, tax payments and GBP 30 million in dividend payments, we are left with a healthy cash balance of GBP 51.7 million. The group's cash conversion ratio for the period was 48.7%. This is considered normal for the first half, and we expect H2 to be higher than H1. Our rolling cash conversion for the 12 months to 31st of August, stood at 107.2% for the same period last year. This cash conversion was 65.3%. The group continues to target a sustainable cash conversion ratio of 100%, and we are focused on achieving this for the full year FY '24. Our capital allocation policy remains unchanged, with our priority being to ensure that we invest appropriately to support our organic growth. This includes investing in our people so that we can attract and retain the talented employees needed to drive growth and at the same time, enhancing our value proposition to our customers. We remain a capital-light business with less than GBP 900,000 spent on CapEx in the first 6 months. This includes some refurbishment [indiscernible], aligning our premises to the new ways of work for our employees. Our dividend policy is to return 40% of post-tax adjusted operating profits to our shareholders via ordinary dividends. This is further broken down into approximately 1/3 as an interim dividend and the balance as a final dividend at the end of the financial year. I am pleased, therefore, to announce that the Board has approved an interim dividend of 2.7p per share, which is 12.5% up on the prior period's interim dividend of 2.4p per share. While organic growth remains our focus, we do have a strong track record of acquiring and integrating when the right opportunities arise. We continue to assess investments that could potentially enhance our value on a highly selective basis. Our investment in the Cloud Bridge is a good example of this. Sustainability is not optional. Between our employees, customers, vendors and shareholders, we have a powerful platform from which we can make a positive contribution to society over the last 2 years, we have been focusing on our efforts of reducing Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions. This year, this has widened to include relevant measurements from within the Scope 3 categories, and we are formally committed to submit our targets to SBTi for validation. We know that high inflation environment has affected all our employees to some extent. The three main drivers of inflation are utilities, transport costs and food. These items typically make up a large portion of the lower paid employees disposable income, and therefore, high inflation is more keenly felt by the segment of our employee base. When granting our annual salary increases in March of this year, we have tried as far as possible to allocate more of this pot to these colleagues. I would also like to take this opportunity to note the appointment of Sam Mudd to the Board as an Executive Director. Sam has been a long-standing MD of the Phoenix business, which has a particular focus on the public sector. To end, we've had another strong half from a financial performance perspective, and we remain well positioned for the balance of the year. Back to Neil.

N
Neil Murphy
executive

Thank you, Andrew. By now, many of you will be very familiar with our strategy. It is straightforward and it has not changed for the last decade. Our business sells software and IT solutions through existing and new customers, and each year, we aim to expand the wallet share of the customer base by upselling and cross-selling new solutions. We know this works. You can see from the chart on the right, a CAGR of gross profit growth over the last 10 years to February '23 of almost 18%. In the half under review, we've continued to invest in more head count to create future bandwidth for our sales engine to deliver greater scale and continued growth. We've shown over the years our ability to grow our market share, and we will continue to see further gains as we invest in our business. A key part of this will be to work strategically with high-growth software companies. Especially in cloud and cyber so that we're in the best possible position when it comes to helping customers with product selection. We are well placed to assist customers and broaden the use of AI in their IT strategies. We are particularly excited about the potential of Microsoft Copilot and look forward to rolling this out to our customers in due course. This represents another tailwind as we enter 2024, and we expect this to gain momentum over the next 2 to 3 years until it becomes a normalized product selection for our customer clients. Given our low single digit market share of the total addressable IT market, we continue to view our organic growth as our biggest strategic opportunity, and that remains our priority. In the headline slide at the beginning of this results presentation, I spoke of the very strong growth in sales. And I'd now like to take a few moments to explain the background behind this abnormally high growth rate. Bytes was awarded a 5-year contract by the National Health Service to supply Microsoft Cloud software and potentially other vendor solutions to provide a platform for future innovation in health care. For many years now, we have taken the approach of investing in new customer relationships by agreeing to lower margins upfront. This has enabled us to win long term high-value contracts, it's an established element of our sales strategy. However, it's not often that we win a contract with a sale value approaching GBP 900 million over the 5 years. We were delighted to win this very prestigious contract. It's the biggest ever Microsoft contract in the U.K., and it now means we have a seat at the table for the entire NHS to embark upon our land and expand approach. We believe we can help deliver a real difference in productivity for the NHS, and we also believe that we can earn a good return on this long-term contract. This year's contract value was GBP 140 million. The overall NHS IT budget exceeds some GBP 4 billion per annum and supports over 1.4 million users. By adopting a multi-cloud strategy, all NHS staff will have access to the latest digital tools as part of the ongoing efforts to improve efficiency. This helped our business grow top line sales by 37.6%. How did we do without this NHS win? I'm pleased to say we would still have recorded top line sales growth of over 19% without this contract, which is a very positive indicator of our broad-based sales growth. So in summary, we have a tried and tested business model which has continued to pay off for all of our stakeholders. We continue to enjoy a large addressable market with well-established and persistent tailwinds, supported by increasing global IT spend. With increased scale, we expect to continue delivering double-digit growth across our key financial metrics as well as increases in market share. Despite the mixed macroeconomic backdrop, demand has remained strong across all verticals and across all business lines that we operate in. The group also benefits from a robust balance sheet and no debt. And finally, we are confident that our proven strategy means we are well placed to continue our progress over the remainder of the financial year and in the years to come. Many thanks for attending today, and we'll now take questions.

Operator

[Operator Instructions] And our first question today comes from Tintin Stormont of Numis.

M
Maria Stormont
analyst

A couple of questions from me. First, on AI. We all know the strength of the relationship with Microsoft and other software vendors. Are there other parts of the tech stack or vendors where you feel you should double down in order to fully capitalize on the AI opportunity? And then second question on AOP as a percent of GP guiding for sort of kind of around 43% for the full year, obviously still being very healthy, especially if you compare it with global resellers. How do you feel about sort of investing in areas that might take longer to deliver returns?

You talked about a 10% growth in gross profit per customer. Can you push that much higher, say, with a bigger menu of products and services to sell? And how do you think about sort of kind of the medium term in terms of kind of building out that menu of products and services?

N
Neil Murphy
executive

Tintin, and you're very greedy on the questions. That's at least three.

M
Maria Stormont
analyst

Sorry, no, no, that's...

N
Neil Murphy
executive

Thank you. So just to the first one, yes, with other vendors, we're engaged very heavily with vendors like Adobe, for example. I think also, if you look at some of the cybersecurity vendors today, AI has been sort of part of their sort of complex for several years. But Adobe is one I'd call out. I mean, they've, they're launching their new creative suite products with AI componentry, it's a new word, by the way, componentry, in November. And I think that's going to drive a sort of tailwind in the sort of advertising and marketing and sort of creative industry. But they've been a well-established partner of ours for many years. I think we keep an open eye to what our other vendor partners are doing today. It's still very early to say, to be honest with you. I do think there's quite a significant amount of hype in the market. And I think, what we're looking forward to is the ability to monetize products that are available to sell, which is really the part we play in the sort of IT ecosystem. So products from Microsoft and Adobe and the cyber partners like the Crowdstrike and Darktrace and others are available now. So that's part of our focus. I think moving on to some of your other questions. When we look at our AOP to GP conversion ratio and yes, we indicated that settling at about 43% by the year-end is about right. We think that does allow us to invest for the long term, Tintin. We're on a sort of a long-term cycle of investment. So the rewards we're anticipating next year are fundamentally coming from the investments we've been making, not just last year, but for the previous 5, 10, 15 years, we think we've got a formula that enables us to repeat this level of growth and we're confident that we can repeat this going forward at a sustainable level of 43%. And then the other question about the growth per customer at around about 10%. I do think we have the opportunity there to increase that, and I -- we're certainly aiming to do that going forward. Am I comfortable with the growth of 10% growth in GP per customer? Yes, I am actually. It's slightly above last year, so that's an improvement. We like improvements. And I think there's a great opportunity to grow that as we go through the next few years. Did that cover off everything? I did it did.

Operator

And we're moving on to Andrew Ripper of Liberum.

A
Andrew Ripper
analyst

Well done on the results. I've got two questions. We'll do one at a time. So first one, just wanted to ask about Copilot, whether you've got any clients that have been trialing it, what the feedback from them have been like? And what's your expectation in terms of how quickly clients may upgrade? And what proportion of seats that you license in the U.K., do you think is addressable? So who do you think is most likely to sort of take up Copilot.

N
Neil Murphy
executive

Thanks, Andrew. There's various versions of Copilot and some of them are available today. So for example, you can -- GitHub Copilot has been available for developers for a while now. And of course, Copilot for Windows is freely available. Yes, customers that are using it today, there are a number of them using preproduction and beta versions. I can't tell you about any of those in particular. But broadly speaking, if we look at our base of clients. We're just expecting that the uptake of Copilot will be a gradual phenomenon that's going to increase in momentum as we go into '24 to '25 and to '26. It's obviously a very hard thing to predict. We do have millions of Office 365 users. And of course, we'll be actively engaging with those clients. We're running a very important seminar for our clients on November 9, we've got hundreds of customers attending that particular event. And of that -- and what we're spending our time right now, Andrew, doing is really explaining to customers how they need to prepare for the implementation and the deployment of Copilot. So it's not a straightforward activity, which is why I say this thing will gain momentum as we get into the next year and beyond. So I think a slow uptake. If we look forward 2, 3 years, I do expect this to be an established product that customers will add to their enterprise agreements or their CSP agreements, I'm expecting it to be well received. Certainly, the beta versions, the preproductions versions that I've seen are pretty exciting. It takes a lot for me to get excited about software. So I'm hoping our customers will be equally as excited when we see it. And so Andrew, what's the second question?

A
Andrew Ripper
analyst

Yes. So second question, I wanted to ask about public sector, obviously, it's had a meaningful impact on the GII in this half, and you've sort of gone through the NHS contract in some detail. What was your experience last time around maybe taking the NHS as an example, or talking more broadly in terms of how you've been able to sort of increase profitability over the life of the contract? Maybe just give us some guide rails as to how GP relative to GII might trend over the 5-year life. And then I think you've done more than NHS, maybe you could reference what else you've won in the public sector in the half. And finally, just is there any cash implication from the sort of shift in GII mix? Will we see any change in sort of receivables and payables profiles?

N
Neil Murphy
executive

Yes. I mean the strategy to sort of land and expand by winning long-term contracts at lower margin, has been in place now for several years. So our GP growth is already in the numbers in terms of what we've done historically, so because this isn't a new phenomenon for us. So typically, in any large project, once you become an established supplier, you do tend to be introduced into other opportunities. And that's, in our view, in our experience, where we've seen the opportunity to grow incremental profits and revenues. As I say, this is a tried and established sort of modus operandi for our sales teams. And so it's, we've demonstrated with our high-value low-margin bids that we run in the past, how in subsequent years that we've been able to grow our GP. And I think we've done some analysis that shows 19 situations of this type where in the subsequent years, we've been able to grow the gross profit. So it definitely works for us. And as part of the overall mix, you'll know from our previous results that public sector at a top line sales number is about 2/3 of our business, yet represents only about 1/3 of the profitability. And that remains a consistent ratio for our business. I'm pretty pleased with the consistency of that. So we're satisfied that going forward, we'll be able to increase the profitability of those longer-term contracts. And the mere fact of having a relationship now that we're going to have for 5 years in one of the U.K.'s most significant institutions where IT is going to play an important part in producing greater efficiencies and productivity sort of gives me the confidence that we'll be able to do more with that particular organization. And you asked about other bids of a similar kind. Yes, there's -- the HMRC was the one we were very pleased to win. That was around about GBP 35 million worth of business. I'm delighted that the [ non revenue ] will be giving me something back having given them quite a bit over the years. And I think that's a similar sort of situation where our land and expand strategy will be deployed over the next 5 years in that particular customer. Andrew, do you want to talk about the cash flow?

A
Andrew Holden
executive

Yes. So Andrew, thanks for the question. We've been in a fortunate position where our public sector clients are very good payers in actual fact. So we don't see the sort of the extreme growth that we've seen in the public sector affecting our cash in any way. So -- and a lot of these big contracts are invoiced around March, April of the year and are paid before our half year. So it's all good. Thank you.

Operator

And our next question comes from Rahul Chopra of HSBC.

R
Rahul Chopra
analyst

I have three quick questions. First, in terms of, could you just discuss again coming back to Microsoft Copilot, readiness of U.K. customer, more specifically for SMB and public sector in particular. And more specifically, within your installed client base, what proportion of customers are with already with enterprise E5? And have you, in your view, would potentially take up with minimum commitment of 300 users initially. Just want to understand some dynamics around that in terms of what work you have done? The second question is around basically, could you give us just like in terms of rebate structure from Microsoft of new products with existing products, is that likely to change? Or do you think it's likely to remain similar to current repaid structure? And finally, a housekeeping question on GBP 2.9 million of interest income in H1 '21 -- sorry, H1 numbers compared to your cash balance of GBP 60 million average for H1 and last year, it looks quite large. So I just wanted to understand the dynamics around that interest income, what's going on, please?

N
Neil Murphy
executive

Yes. Thanks very much for those. On Copilot readiness for SMB and public sector, really, I don't give -- I can't give you a great answer for that because I generally don't know, they're such a new set of products. I think we've all read and understood a reasonable amount about what the potential is for these products. But I think our SMB and public sector clients are really in the same shoes as we are, and that is, we want to understand more. We want to understand how we can deploy this. We want to understand the commercials. We want to understand the potential to gain productivity and efficiencies. Please, can you help us understand this? And that is the role we'll be playing out for the remainder of this calendar year and into next year. If we look at our installed client base of E5, again, yes, you're right about the minimum 300 user threshold for the enterprise agreement side of things. We are fortunate enough to manage thousands of enterprise agreements across the U.K. and Ireland in both public sector and private sector. And a high proportion of them are E5 users. But again, I'd have to look into a bit more detail to give you a more detailed answer in terms of the mix there, Rahul. So I'll come back to at a later stage on that one. But it's fair to say that the same momentum I talked about earlier would probably apply whether you're E3, E5 SMB, public sector corporate. It's one of those situations where there's a lot of education and understanding that needs to take place before customers in a situation to adopt and deploy. The rebate structure, we'd not expect any kind of change. We're expecting and we've been led to believe from Microsoft that there's no change to the overall rebate schemes.

We're expecting rebates to be managed in the same way they are today. So we are hoping to see the same sort of economic benefit for scale that we would see for any other kind of sales environment. And then on to the last question, Andrew.

A
Andrew Holden
executive

Yes. So Rahul, the question is around interest income in the first half and in comparison to last year. So I guess, the interest earning sort of environment in the U.K. has been very recent. And we entered into agreements with our banks to open up overnight and money market accounts early in the calendar year this year. And if you recall, we carried 74 -- sorry, GBP 73 million on our cash balances at full year, now we paid out GBP 30 million in dividends after our Annual General Meeting in July. So inherently, we had that sort of dividends in interest-bearing accounts for the first half, and that sort of has meant the maybe higher than normal interest income. And certainly, it will not be quite as high in the second half.

Operator

And up next, we have Alex Nguyen of Jefferies.

H
Hoa Nguyen
analyst

So I have two questions, and I will go one by one. First of all, so Microsoft obviously pushed out robust set number last night with about 15% of the expected growth for the productivity segment. This is reflected in your results today and then the comment around robust growth in the U.K. IT spend. Now obviously, I know there are difference between you and Softcat and Computer Central. But can you just talk a little bit more how should we reconcile your strong results today with the comments from Softcat yesterday about customer becoming more conscious and then also similar observation from Computer Central about softer U.K. backdrop. That will be my first one.

N
Neil Murphy
executive

Okay. Thanks, Alex. So I can only speak for ourselves for our business. I can't really comment on the other companies. We are fortunate as a business that with our focus on software, we have a different kind of product mix. And I think that insulates us from some of the cyclicality that you see in other sectors, the IT market, particularly the sort of hardware side of the industry. So we do have a level of resilience because of the product mix in our operation. I think it's fair to say we've had good growth in the first half of the year, and we expect the second half to be a repeat essentially of what we've seen in the first half. We do have a broad base of clients. There is no sort of customer centricity. There's no overly concentrated segment of our client base. So that broad base of customers gives us another level of resilience. And as I say, we are expecting a sort of continued growth in those areas that we are focusing in with cloud, cybersecurity, in particular. So that would explain our view on the outlook, certainly looking forward because we have a high level of annuity in the business. Again, that gives us a degree of visibility for our forward-looking revenue position and sales position and the sales pipeline reflects that level of positivity.

H
Hoa Nguyen
analyst

Yes. That makes sense. And then the second question that I have, which is the economics of the lower margin public sector contracts that you pointed out. I understand the rationale that these economics will improve going forward, but then, can you comment whether these contracts are taken on initially at a loss? And if that is the case, do you fully absorb those loss in the P&L? Or you spread them out over the life of the contract?

A
Andrew Holden
executive

So to maybe answer them in reverse, the -- we act as an agent with software sales. So we take all expenses and all revenues GII into account when we place the invoice with our customers. So there's no spreading of cost or losses or profits across the term of the contract. And then we have won these contracts at a lower than, let's say, our average margins and those are fully baked into H1's costs. So any expansion into the future would be positive on our income.

H
Hoa Nguyen
analyst

That's very clear. And then can I just follow up with a small other one. I noticed around a couple of million of uptick in the contract asset. And then you mentioned that most of the public -- the major public contracts have been paid already. So can I see some clarification around one of these uptick about? If it's just like a natural progression as the business grows?

A
Andrew Holden
executive

It's a natural progression as the business grows. We would have some of the contract assets being in our services contracts that would be multi sort of years and most likely spread over a year. So you'll see those coming down towards the full year as well. And just a reminder, services are not a big portion of our income, but a very important part of it.

Operator

Our next question comes from Patrick O'Donnell from Goodbody Stockbrokers.

P
Patrick O'Donnell
analyst

Just two questions from me. I think [indiscernible] called out what they believe their share in while it was yesterday, and how many customers there with just in terms of where you currently are, what you think quite current wallets represent the percentage of the total SME wallets right now? And some similar stats, if you could give us a like-for-like? And then the second question is back to Copilot. Given the sort of I suppose the preparation you're ongoing on the trial phase. Are you also building into sort of the recruitment rate sales professionals with background in AI expertise? Have you had to augment your own in-house AI sales expertise as you sort of see this as a long-term opportunity?

N
Neil Murphy
executive

Yes. Thanks, Patrick. The share of the wallet, yes, certainly, I look -- we look at this, obviously, on regular basis. We, if you were drawing comparisons with the -- with [indiscernible], you mentioned in the question just then, we would estimate that our average is well below that purely by definition in that we don't sell an awful lot of hardware components from products. Our product range is less than there. So I would expect that if we're doing a like-for-like comparison, as you've asked there, we are looking at sort of 15% to 20% of wallet share. It's obviously not an exact science in terms of giving you the full answer to that, and the reason for that is our customers don't know what our IT spend is half the time. So it's very hard for us to sort of guesstimate that. But given that that's well-understood sort of metric from one of our best competitors. But I would say we're just slightly underneath that in general. We've put figures forward for the half year, by the way. So our figures don't represent the full year sort of number. Obviously, we'll update the market for the growth of the 12-month point. On the Copilot question, you raised a very interesting point because we can hardly go out there and hire lots of experience AI people because they don't readily exist. So in our recruitment driver at the moment, certainly, as we look at the, say, the first half of our recruitment has been in sales and the other half includes some technical capabilities, personnel. We'll be growing our own, Patrick, is the answer. We need to give people hands-on experience in the technology over the next few years in order to get the right capabilities ourselves. And so we are putting people through training courses and boot camps and people will be learning from now on. And obviously, we have access to all the white papers and technical documentations from Microsoft and other vendors. And our people will be, sitting to training courses and exams so that we can get as many of them qualified and accredited as we possibly can between now and going forward. So yes, hopefully, that answers your question, Patrick.

P
Patrick O'Donnell
analyst

Yes. And does that mean sort of like you expect that sales team to hit the ground running as and when those products become operationally a bigger part of your business? Sort of future proof in the sales model.

N
Neil Murphy
executive

Yes. I mean the sales force don't act in isolation. I mean we're proud of the fact that our salespeople works with a whole orchestra of additional resources that enable them to bring to the clients the right solutions. So they're not acting independently or in isolation, salespeople working teams and they're complemented by teams of pre-sales and post-sales technical capabilities and individuals to help them. So we don't let raw talent out into our customers without the right level of expertise. So they get cheap dipped in certainly, Microsoft technologies to begin with before we let them loose on people like yourself, Patrick. So rest assured that they'll be -- they'll have the right skills by the time they're talking to customers.

Operator

And our next question now comes from James Zaremba of Barclays.

J
James Zaremba
analyst

Three questions, please. Firstly, Softcat spoke about the benefits of a broad vendor offering whilst also flagging the challenge for a sales force to stay wearable products. What factors do you consider through either balance between breadth and expertise in your product portfolio? Then on people, I know attrition wasn't a big problem for you ever, but is the less competitive employment market now helping you scale? And then lastly, Andrew, sorry, I might have missed this, but can you elaborate on the trends of the components of receivables and payables in the period?

N
Neil Murphy
executive

Yes. Thanks, James. So our particular product offering and our particular product mix has suited us for 10, 15, 20 years. And we've deliberately chosen not to have the broadest vendor offering precisely because we think that being subject matter experts and having a clear focus on fewer products is the right thing for us to do. So I couldn't comment on what our friends have said. But it is always a challenge to stay on top of 10 or 15, 20 different vendors, let alone hundreds. And so I think that focus that we're offering has enabled our growth over the past 10 or 15 years. And certainly, the fact that we don't have the broadest offering has certainly not been an inhibitor to our growth going forward. So I think we have the right sort of balance. Having said all of that, of course, we do offer a whole range of hardware products as well to our clients, but it remains a fairly small component of our overall product offering. So we're comfortable with the product mix we have today. I think as far as hiring and people are concerned, I've noted the fact that I think people are sort of staying put a bit more frequently now rather than jumping ship and moving around as they were a year or 2 ago. Yes, I'd say that probably has helped. We've certainly -- we've increased head count in the first half by 10%, which is about 100 people. I think talking to the recruitment team, we had to interview about 400-plus people to get those 100. And I haven't heard that hiring has become much easier, but it certainly is not a challenge for us at the moment. Andrew?

A
Andrew Holden
executive

So thanks, Neil. So the components of the -- on the balance sheet, the working capital components, we've -- obviously, inventories are 0 or close to 0. Trade and other receivables, two comparatives as against last year and the H1 to H1 and then obviously, full year to H1. So not much movement in the receivables last year. It was GBP 184 this H1 to GBP 177 this year, so slightly down. So we are not -- I think if you look at creditor days, very similar to this time last year. So we're not exceeding any of the contract terms that we have with our vendors. So quite pleased with that. And bearing in mind that our biggest vendor is Microsoft, and we make sure that is always up-to-date and clean. And then on the receivables, again, not much movement on the receivables. We do have that sort of seasonal impact where we have debtors days going slightly up by half year and by full year retracting back in. So I think -- so in a summary, it is normal and the growth that we've seen in some of those lines are more in line with the growth of the profits in the GII. And maybe particularly important is sort of 36% up, 37% up in the GII. We have to collect that money. And that's where the sort of the working capital would come into not really much the GP line.

Operator

And our last question for today comes from Harry Reid of Redburn [indiscernible].

U
Unknown Analyst

Maybe one at a time. The first one, obviously, Microsoft last night, very good print and it seems like the cloud optimization cycle is coming to an end and growth is bottoming. Just trying to understand, I know it's not all of the business from Microsoft, but understanding how late cycle you are versus that growth coming into the hyperscaler itself? Or when you could see the benefits coming into cloud certainly reaccelerating?

N
Neil Murphy
executive

Yes. Harry, I think we look at it a little bit differently. That -- the clients that Microsoft have globally and that we see here in the U.K., their digital transformation, IT strategies and spend cycles, they're all different. If you've got tens of thousands of customers all operating at different speeds, all with slightly different IT strategies. And so you're seeing cloud adoption advance at a different pace in different client sets. We're fortunate enough with only a sort of low single digit market share to have thousands of customer opportunities in the U.K. that we haven't yet engaged with. And so we see the opportunity as one of increasing market share rather than measuring how Microsoft are doing against AWS at the global level and so on. We see such a large runway of opportunity by taking market share gains. That is where our focus is. So we want to win hundreds of new clients each year. whilst at the same time, cross-sell and upsell, dozens and tons of different solutions, not just Microsoft product sets into our clients. And so, so we do look at it a bit differently. I think it's very encouraging to see the growth that Microsoft has seen in that first quarter. They are very excited about their opportunity next year and beyond. Certainly, if you listen to Mr. Nadella's outlook statement yesterday, he is very upbeat about the potential growth for Microsoft. So I think there's tailwinds out there that didn't exist 6 months ago with AI and Copilot. So we're excited about taking advantage of those opportunities in the next few years.

U
Unknown Analyst

Okay, brilliant. And then maybe just one for Andrew. It seem that share-based comp has ticked up a little bit as a percentage of GP, 2.5% just on the 4% in the last 2 halves. Obviously, quite a large impact on your margin when you strip it out on a non-GAAP basis. Is 4% the kind of rate we could expect going forward?

A
Andrew Holden
executive

We are close to sort of maturing that sort of growth. And the reason for it is we've been listed now if we roll on to December for 3 years. In June next year, we would have then allocated the fourth round of the long-term incentives. So that means by June next year, the growth in that number will certainly stop. And then in December this year, the pre-IPO awards that we've made mature as well and are vesting. So that cost comes out as well. So you would expect by this time next year, more -- call it, a flatter number on share-based payments.

U
Unknown Analyst

Is that in absolute terms, yes?

A
Andrew Holden
executive

That will be in absolute terms, yes.

U
Unknown Analyst

Okay. Very clear. And then just one more short one. obviously, Bytes the way that the sales force is set up, it's more longer-term account managers versus the likes of Softcat, which has a shorter sales program, et cetera. Just wondering what your contingency plans are for when these account managers do decide to retire, do you have younger account managers to support the account looking? I'm just interested on what the continuation plan is that.

N
Neil Murphy
executive

Yes, Harry, that's a good question. And as we've evolved and grown as an organization, one of the reasons we've been able to grow so well and so consistently is precisely because our senior account managers over time, expand their client portfolio to such a degree that they hire beneath them, salespeople who are junior account managers, who become senior account managers and over time become account directors and essentially replace the account director that retires or moves on. So you have that sort of constant sort of feeding in of talent and capability so that the customer experience remains consistent. And that is at such a mature level now within the organization that I'm pleased to say that the sort of potential weakness there that you highlight has never manifested itself as an actual weakness, "touch wood." And we're pretty proud of the fact that our account directors are very happy to introduce more people into their clients. It gives us continuity, it gives us a high degree of customer stickiness. I'm still very proud of the fact that only 1 of our top 50 account directors has left the organization in the last 7 years. So there's a high retention at the senior level, and that's really because of the high rewards that they're able to claim and to benefit from. But also, we're pretty pleased with the motivational plans that we have in place in the incentive schemes generally. So it is a high reward sort of highly incentivized environment that they operate in. But we have a high degree of consistency and training and account management programs in place to prevent precisely that sort of thing from happening Harry. So we're very comfortable with where we sit in that environment.

Operator

And if there are no further questions in the queue, I would now like to hand the call back over to you, Neil for any additional or closing remarks.

N
Neil Murphy
executive

Yes. Thank you very much, everybody, for attending today. We look forward to speaking with many of you over the next few days as we embark on the road show, and take your questions and answer further questions from you. So thanks very much for your time today.

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2024
2023