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New year shopping

Many companies made small acquisitions ahead of the flood of quarterly results.
Read time 9min 10sec

Welcome to my first column of 2008. As is usual over the holiday season, the international ICT scene was busy, with many of the big boys making small acquisitions ahead of the flood of quarterly results expected over the next couple of weeks.

On the local front, there were a handful of small acquisitions and/or investments and several new executive appointments.

Key local news

* Good interim (maiden) numbers from Huge Group.
* Good year-end figures from Zaptronix (back in the black).
* Satisfactory year-end numbers from Sekunjalo, although profit up 55%.
* Positive trading updates from Cape Empowerment Trust and Simeka.
* Ansys acquired Optocon, a manufacturer of precision electro optical systems, for R14.5 million.
* Bidorbuy, the SA online auction company, purchased jobs.co.za, a local job site.
* Britehouse Group (Pebbletree Consulting) bought Eventus, a SAP consultancy.
* Dialogue Group acquired Verge Management, a provider of consultancy and BPO services to the public sector, for R47.5 million.
* Laser Facilities (part of Bytes Technology Group) purchased PaperGeni, a specialist envelope manufacturer.
* Naspers bought UK-based Tradus, an Internet auction company, for £946 million.
* Pinnacle Technology Holdings acquired Tri Continental Distribution SA.
* Tellumat Electronic Manufacturing, in conjunction with a black-owned consortium, bought the non-core PCB plant of Carl Zeiss Optronics (ex Denel Optronics).
* Ideco invested 30% in Kroll Background Screening, a leading player in the international credential verification industry.
* The Red Magic Consortium made a BEE investment in Lightedge, an IT solutions company specialising in enterprise solutions, software development services, platform integration and technical services.
* Wethu Investment Group made a BEE investment in Liquid Thought, a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner, focused on customer relationship management and information worker solutions.
* BTG de-listed following its consolidation into Altron.
* ICASA awarded an additional seven under-serviced area licences (USALs).
* The appointments of Michelle Beetar as country manager of Novell SA, Craig Christensen as CEO of IFCA Technologies, Herb Chikwanda as CEO of Powertech IST, Ahmed Mahomed as CEO of Datacentrix, Sibusiso Shabalala as CEO of Infowave, and Gerhard van der Merwe as country manager of EMC SA.
* BK Wong, CEO of IFCA Technologies, resigned.
* Frank Touwen, country manager of EMC SA, and Gerhard Uys, CEO and co-founder of Datacentrix, resigned.

Key African news

* Good quarterly numbers from Orascom Telecom.
* Visaphone Communications (Nigeria) purchased Bourdex Telecom (Nigeria), a private telecommunications company.
* Sudatel (Sudan) acquired 70% of Intercellular Nigeria.
* Orascom Telecom (Egypt) sold off its Iraqi subsidiary and its shares (14.2%) in Hutchison Telecommunications International.
* Essar Communications Holdings (India) invested 49% in Econet Wireless International.
* Etisalat made a significant additional investment in Canar Telecommunications (Sudan), giving it control, which brings the former's shareholding up to 82%.
* MTN launched a private placement offer for shares in MTN Nigeria. It is rumoured to be selling 3.5% of its shares in MTN Nigeria.
* Reliance Communications of India was awarded Uganda's sixth telecoms licence.
* Warid Telecom launched in Uganda. This is the country's fourth national telecoms operator.
* Darren Ross was appointed Software AG's senior VP for MEA for the company's Enterprise Transaction System business. Ross was previously the SA country manager for Software AG.
* Dominic Saint Jean, a turnaround artist, was appointed the new CEO of Telkom Kenya.
* Look out for a possible buy-in to Mobinil (Egypt) by MTN.

Key international news

Look out for the possible break-up of Motorola, following the collapse in popularity of its cellular handset division.

Paul Booth, MD, Global Research Partners

* ON Semiconductor, which only a few weeks ago also swallowed Analog Devices, bought AMIS Holdings for $915 million.
* AT&T acquired Edge Wireless, a US-based wireless company.
* Avnet purchased Azzurri Technology, a UK-based distributor of hi-tech semiconductors and embedded systems products. Avnet is one of the top 50 ICT companies worldwide, with revenue in excess of $15 billion.
* BT Group acquired Singapore-based Frontline Technologies, a provider of consulting services around applications and infrastructure, and systems integration and infrastructure, application and business process management.
* Dell purchased UK-based The Networked Storage Company, an IT consultancy that specialises in transitioning customers to proven, simplified and cost-efficient IT data storage solutions.
* EMC bought Document Sciences, a provider of document output management software, for $85 million.
* Epicor Software acquired UK-based and LSE-listed NSB Retail Systems for $322 million, which potentially creates a speciality retail market leader.
* Ericsson purchased HyC Group, a Spanish provider of TV consultancy and systems integration services.
* HP purchased NUR Macroprinters, a manufacturer of wide-format digital inkjet printers, for $117.5 million.
* IBM made three acquisitions: It bought Arsenal Digital Solutions, a company that helps organisations protect and store their data; XIV, an Israeli storage technology company; and Solid Information Technology, a provider of in-memory database technology.
* Iomega purchased China-based ExcelStor, a manufacturer of disk drives and related products, for $317 million. The latter is owned by Hong Kong-based Great Wall Technology Company, which in turn is owned by China Electronics, a conglomerate owned by the Chinese government.
* Microsoft made three acquisitions: It bought Fast Search & Transfer ($1.2 billion), a Norwegian search software company; Multimap, a UK-based mapping company; and WebFives, a media sharing service.
* Motorola purchased Soundbuzz, an online music retailer.
* Nokia acquired Avvenu, a provider of Internet services that allows anyone to use their mobile devices to securely access, use and share personal computer files, even if the host computer is turned off.
* Nokia Siemens Networks bought UK-based Apertio, a developer of software for carriers moving to next-generation networks, for EUR140 million.
* Oracle acquired Moniforce, a software vendor for monitoring the availability and performance of any Web application.
* Philips Electronics purchased Emergin, a US-based clinical IT company; and Respironics, a medical equipment maker specialising in sleep therapy.
* Qualcomm acquired SoftMax, a company that provides noise suppression and echo cancellation systems for mobile devices.
* Seagate Technology purchased MetaLINCS, a technology leader in the e-discovery market.
* Software AG bought Jacada's Application Modernisation Business, which aims to modernise the user interfaces of mainframe and mid-range-based applications, for $26 million.
* Bahrain's Unicorn Investment made a $190 million (75%) investment in Open-Silicon, a US-based microchip manufacturer. This is part of a growing trend by Gulf-based companies to invest in hi-tech companies, following similar moves involving AMD and Sony.
* Vimpel Communications (Russia) acquired Golden Telecom (Russia) for $4.24 billion. VimpelCom is Russia's second-largest mobile operator and Golden Telecom is Russia's largest player in providing telecommunications services to businesses.
* Vivendi's SFR mobile phone subsidiary bought out Neuf Cegetel (France) for EUR4.5 billion, to create a major challenger to France Telecom.
* Atos Origin sold off its stake in its joint ventures with NTSE Euronext and its Italian operation.
* It was announced that Eutelsat SA and ViaSat have formed a partnership that is intended to make Internet access via satellite more competitive.
* Intel pulled out of the One Laptop Per Child programme.
* Matsushita Electric Industrial changed its name to Panasonic, its best-known brand.
* Gregory Reyes, the ex CEO of Brocade Communications Systems, was convicted of fraud regarding the incorrect datings of his retroactive stock options. This is the first of many similar cases now being persued in the US.
* The appointments of Steve Dussek (ex CEO of Dobson Communications) as CEO of NII Holdings, Ed Harbach as CEO of BearingPoint, Dan Hesse as president and CEO of Sprint Nextel, John Lilly as CEO of Mozilla, Julio Linares as CEO of Telefonica, Olivier Roussat as CEO of Bouygues Telecom, Andrew Taylor as CEO of Intec Telecom Systems, and Jim Whitehouse as CEO and president of Red Hat.
* The resignations of Michell Baker, CEO of Mozilla (stays on as chairman), Matthew Szulik, president and CEO of Red Hat, and Harry You, CEO of BearingPoint.
* A satisfactory IPO in Hong Kong by BYD Electronics, a mobile phone component maker.
* A very good IPO by NetSuite on the NYSE. NetSuite is an ASP that was originally majority-owned by Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle.

Look out for

* The possible buy-out of Logitech by Microsoft, a deal which could be valued at $8 billion and would constitute the latter's largest acquisition to date.
* The possible break-up of Motorola, following the collapse in popularity of its cellular handset division.
* The possible buy-out of Capgemini by Wipro, one of India's major IT services companies.
* The possible spin-off by Unisys of its US government business.
* The possible takeover of Brasil Telecom by Oi (ex Telemar) in a deal valued at $2.7 billion.

Research results and predictions

* Worldwide external disk storage systems factory revenue for Q307 grew 5.1% over Q306, according to IDC.
* IDC says the worldwide storage software market grew 9.8% in Q307 to $2.8 billion, compared to Q306.
* Global shipments of smartphones are expected to top 195 million units in 2008, 16% of the total handset shipments and up from 13% in 2007, according to Digitimes Research.
* Acer and Asustek Computer have both moved up one place to become the second and eighth-largest notebook vendors worldwide, according to IDC.

Stock market changes

* JSE All share index: Down 9.1%
* Nasdaq: Down 9.2%
* Top SA share movements: African Cellular Towers (+19.2%), Beget Holdings (+25%), DVT (+17.2%), GijimaAst (-15.2%), Ifca Technologies (-58.3%), Jasco (-19.3%), MTN (-17.2%), Spescom (-17.2%), Stella Vista (-20.4%) and Zaptronix (+88.9%)

Final word

Nasdaq has announced the changes for the annual makeover of its Nasdaq-100 index. From a technology perspective, the new addition is Focus Media; while Ericsson and XM Satellite Radio are two of the casualties.

Similarly, the following are the changes from a technology perspective for several of the S&P indices:

* S&P MidCap 400 Index: Added is Foundry Networks and deleted are Andrew and Powerwave Technologies.
* S&P SmallCap 600 Index: Added is MIVA.
* S&P 500 Index: Added is Total System Services.

See also