South Africa’s much-maligned information and telecommunication technologies sector emerged from 2002 with not only its reputation intact, but also its bottom line, according to a recent survey. Despite the high-profile collapse in the share prices of one-time darlings of the stock exchange, most ICT companies weathered what was as much a storm in market sentiment as in industry activity.

Of 40 ICT and electronics companies that have reported results for 2002, 77% reflected an operating profit. According to the Map of the Information and Telecommunications Technology Sector in South Africa 2003 (MITTS SA) released this week by World Wide Worx, it is expected that this proportion will be closer to 90% for the current year. In a market that has seen a global downturn in sales, South Africa’s top ICT companies have seen a hefty growth in turnover for the past two years running. The 40 companies included in the MITTS SA survey reported R67 billion in sales for 2000, a 31% increase to R88 billion in 2001, and a further 21% jump to R107 billion in 2002.

The numbers are not a definitive indicator of growth in ICT, however, as many of the turnover figures reported include the impact of acquisitions and corporate restructuring. Nevertheless, where losses have been reported, they have often been the consequence of the kind of exceptional items excluded from headline earnings.