The Financial Week Ahead – Story Thus far.

April has proved one of the cruellest months for the hi-tech sector and its investors, but new internet and telecoms group Thus flowered enough in its first five months to weather the storm. Formerly known as Scottish Telecoms, Thus became Scotland’s largest-ever corporate flotation when it burst on to the stock market in November after its rebrand the previous month, raising #327m for its war chest. With its market capitalisation of about #4.6bn, Thus is now more than half the size of parent Scottish Power which commands a #8.2bn value and a 50.01% stake in the new entity. Finance director Gerard McAloon and top management won many fans after their demerger from Scottish Power last year, but next week they will release their first annual figures as Thus to a sobered audience. Despite its auspicious start, which last month led to entry only four months after flotation to the FTSE-100, its share price took a tumble this month with the rest of the sector to a low of 322.5p from a high of 845p. McAloon, like many FDs in the hi-tech sector, now has to keep investors satisfied until 2002, when the company is expected to turn in profits with ambitious but costly plans for a nationwide roll-out. The Scottish ICA member, who started out at Price Waterhouse in Glasgow, has, since his appointment in 1998, already overseen the transformation of Thus from a supplier of residential services in Scotland to a national force poised to break south of the border and roll its network out across the UK. McAloon brings over five years’ experience in the utilities sector to the position. He held senior finance positions in each of Scottish Powers’ electricity, water and telecoms businesses and did a stint as group finance director at Southern Water from 1996 to 1998. This experience will help guide expansion plans for Demon, one of the UK’s largest web hosts, and the 7,500km fibre optic network which will connect the UK’s major urban centres at a cost of #160m this year and #156m next year.

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