CRANEWARE chief executive Keith Neilson is anticipating market conditions will continue to be “benign and positive” in the company’s core US market ahead of what is expected to be bitterly fought election across the Atlantic this year.

Mr Neilson’s comments came as he outlined his confidence in the Edinburgh-based company’s prospects for the second half of its current financial year and into 2025, after reporting a 13% rise in pre-tax profits to $5.9 million (£4.65m) in six months to December 31. Revenue in the first half climbed by 8% to $91.2m.

Craneware develops and sells billing and auditing software which is used by hospitals, pharmacies and other healthcare providers in the US.

Yesterday, it highlighted a strengthening market backdrop among healthcare and hospital customers in the US, which it said are “refocusing on their future” following the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The rise in first half revenue came after it returned to growth in the second half of its previous financial year.

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Craneware said the improved market backdrop was demonstrated by significant rises in sales to new and existing customers, with the company stating it was confident of delivering results for the year in line with current consensus, adding that it sees “clear potential” for growth acceleration in the near term.

“We are definitely seeing our end market is in a better position, even than this time last year,” Mr Neilson told The Herald. “So, they are able to think more strategically and that is where we come in. We can help them with the more strategic questions that they have, so we have been taking that forward.

“Our product set is in a really position now. We have been working really hard on them over the last few years, that is all coming to fruition. We have been packing our products in what for us is an innovative way with what we call our Optimisation Suites. They solve real world problems that the hospital has with multiple products and services. We package them together for them to be able to do that.”

He added: “It is a combination of all those things hitting at the same time that is helping us be really confident that not only are we seeing an acceleration just now, but we will continue to see that acceleration over the next 12 to 15 months, and beyond.”

Mr Neilson said current economic sentiment in the US was “generally pretty vibrant”, with near-full employment and salaries “good”. He acknowledged that the forthcoming election in November, likely to come down to a head-to-head between incumbent President Joe Biden and Donald Trump, will be “contentious”, but does not anticipate it resulting any legislative change that may affect its market.

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He identified healthcare and the pursuit of value for money from it as one of the few areas where legislation is progressing and on which there is bipartisan support.

Mr Neilson said: “Thankfully, the area we are in is about getting value for healthcare, which has true bipartisan support, so the only legislation that is getting through tends to be positive and generally tends to be positive towards the hospital provider market, which is our end customer.

“The reason for that is hospitals in just about all states are the largest employers and so have quite a bit political sway at state level. And that obviously feeds its way up into federal government, as you have the representatives from those states coming together.

“So, we think that the political environment, despite it being an election year, and despite it being what could be quite a contentious election, is probably going to be benign and positive for us.”

Meanwhile, Mr Neilson said the company would continue to assess acquisitions as part of its growth strategy, although he emphasised its strong prospects for organic growth through both new and existing customers.

He said: “We still believe that we can be in and applicable to all US hospitals. So [we have] phenomenal growth just from the organic basis, but we do think we can accelerate that growth with M&A (mergers and acquisitions) and third parties utilising the channel as well.”

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Craneware has a headcount of “slightly more than” 750 people and is looking to recruit further in Scotland. Mr Neilson said the company and wider tech sector in Scotland is challenged by the fact there are “still not enough tech people in Scotland”.

He said: “Collectively, as a nation, we need to think about that and how we armour kids and our graduates to make sure we are delivering for that and taking forward that finite resource”.

He expressed hope that a change of UK Government could result in alterations to immigration rules that could help. But he said this has to be matched by action at “grassroots to be able to bring though people from Scotland and bring them into these roles as well, and future-proof ourselves for tech roles right across the board”.

Mr Neilson added: “This is not just a Craneware issue. This is really a national issue, I believe.”

The company declared an interim dividend of 13p per ordinary share, up from 12.5p.

Shares closed down 30p, or 1.42%, at 2,080p.