Serco forced to de­fend track and trace ef­forts af­ter Covid profit boost

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Business -

◆ Serco de­fended its per­for­mance pro­vid­ing track and trace ser­vices dur­ing the coro­n­avirus cri­sis yes­ter­day as the out­sourc­ing com­pany posted a 53pc rise in half-year prof­its, writes Ben Gart­side.

The com­pany has hired 10,000 work­ers to call con­tacts of peo­ple who have tested pos­i­tive for Covid-19 and ad­vise them to self-iso­late, but on av­er­age each tracer has only spo­ken to 2.4 in­di­vid­u­als.

Ru­pert Soames, Serco’s chief ex­ec­u­tive, said the scru­tiny over track and trace con­tracts “goes with the ter­ri­tory of be­ing an out­sourcer as you’re tak­ing tax­payer money”.

Speak­ing to BBC Ra­dio 4, Mr Soames pointed to “10 Nightin­gale hos­pi­tals ly­ing va­cant [and] 30,000 ven­ti­la­tors that are not be­ing used. The Gov­ern­ment has to start some­where with ca­pac­ity and the fact is that we have got too much ca­pac­ity than we need right here, right now”.

Serco has also won gov­ern­ment con­tracts to pro­vide Covid tests, but said “the im­pact of coro­n­avirus was net zero”, as gains were off­set by other losses. Un­der­ly­ing prof­its rose to £77.6m on rev­enues up 24pc at £1.8bn.

Shares dropped 15pc to close at 143.7p amid profit tak­ing.

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