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Aveva: yet another victim of Ukraine strain

Higher interest rates and investor rotation into value sectors have squashed tech company valuations. When the businesses are listed in the UK, they already come with a discount to US peers built in. Cambridge-based Aveva added a third woe to the list on Wednesday. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will hit the profitability of the industrial software group. The shares fell 15 per cent.

The group said operating margins will decline from 30 per cent last year through to March 2024. Rising costs mean it expects profit growth to resume after that. Aveva did not change its 2026 targets.

The group’s direct exposure to Russia is a mere 2 per cent of revenues but it expects the hit from lost business to fall directly on the bottom line. Aveva’s problems show that business conditions and the spending on software that depends on them are worsening. Factors such as the war will now dominate a narrative that previously showed promise.

Aveva had been expanding thanks to a deal struck in 2017 to take over Schneider Electric’s software division. This helped create a full lifecycle software offering, generating valuable recurring revenues.

Aveva reinforced that strategy in 2021 with the $5bn acquisition of OSIsoft. This lowered Aveva’s reliance on revenues from the oil and gas industry to 35 per cent. OSIsoft’s data analytics business will supposedly help the company achieve recurring revenues that account for 80 per cent of the total by 2026, up from 64 per cent today.

Those targets assume the economy in four years’ time will be in no worse shape than right now. But soaring materials and energy prices are already hurting European industrial groups. Germany’s manufacturing purchasing managers’ index fell to its lowest level in almost three years in April.

Businesses have begun reflexively blaming disappointing numbers on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But there is a more general malaise. The cyclical slowdown was under way before hostilities broke out.

“Don’t you know there’s a war on?” is a question that answers itself: no one who reads company statements could have escaped that fact.

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