Utilities billing specialist Gentrack says first-half operating earnings will be about 20 percent lower than a year earlier due to extra spending on staff.

The firm, which provides specialist software to power companies, water suppliers and airports around the world, says its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation will be about $12.5 million in the six months through March, from $15.9 million a year earlier.

Gentrack said the slide, down from $15 million in the six months ended September, is due to about $5 million of extra investment in staff.

“We had expected this cost to be covered by substantial projects which have been put on hold,” the company said in notes for today’s annual meeting of shareholders.

Gentrack shares fell 4.2 percent to $4.85, taking their loss the past year to almost 23 percent.

The Auckland-based company has bought four businesses since March 2017 to speed its expansion in markets outside New Zealand and Australia and to strengthen its airport offering.  Revenue from the UK more than doubled last year, making it the firm’s single largest market and generating about 40 percent of group sales.

Gentrack told investors that regulatory and investment uncertainty continues for utilities in the UK, and in Australia, the company’s second-largest market.

But it says it is still winning business and its sales pipeline continues to grow.

Recurring software revenue will be up in the first half, and full-year operating earnings will also be ahead of the $31 million reported last year.

“We remain confident in our 15 percent long-term organic ebitda growth target.”

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