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April 20, 1988

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE, ELECTRONIC DATA INTERCHANGE DRIVE INDEPENDENT GSI

By CBR Staff Writer

One year after its birth as a leveraged buy-out from Compagnie Ge’ne’rale d’Electricite’, French computer services group, Ge’ne’rale de Service en Informatique SA, GSI, is pushing its truly international image by expanding its base and product line in the UK, refining its short-term strategy, and defining future areas of specialisation. Ten years after its original inception, the company claims to have developed seven distinct areas of competence – payroll and personnel management, motor trade, transportation and tourism, business management, marketing and economics, distribution and financial management, and advanced technologies – and has different combinations of divisions dedicated to these areas, together with eight telecommunications networks and IBM mainframe computer centres, scattered throughout Europe. Figures released on Tuesday show a 1987 turnover up 7% to the equivalent of $245m, with pre-tax profits at $11.8m, and net earnings per share at $3.2. Quite why CGE allowed such a good subsidiary to buy its way out remains something of a mystery, but is officially explained by the parent’s change of direction and expansion into the telecommunications market by taking control of ITT’s telecommunications businesses to create Alcatel NV. GSI, which recently embarked on a similar divesting exercise by selling its Honeywell Bull operation to another French company, has directed its own expansion and development plans firmly towards the fields of electronic data interchange and artificial intelligence – in 1981 the company bought a 10% founding stake in the Carnegie Group, and looks to integrate its AI expertise in all of its seven competence areas. Although involved in a pan-European consortium tendering for telecommunications projects within the European Community’s Esprit programme, future plans do not, however, appear to include any notable partners: GSI is clearly dedicated to establishing its truly international status on its own, and firmly denied suggestions that other European companies – and in particular Logica Plc – were viewing GSI as a potential French partner. Nevertheless, it is unusual for companies bought out from their parents with borrowed cash to to remain independent long. New UK Business Management division Meanwhile, in the UK, a new Business Management division is being established alongside existing Motor Transport and Tourism and Transportation divisions at GSI’s UK base in Camberley, Surrey. The new division, which will employ an initial 20 staff, will also act as the official UK launching pad for GSI’s distribution management, financial accounting and warehousing software system, Tolas, which runs under the VMS operating system on DEC hardware. The system, based on a package designed by GSI’s US subsidiary, Transcomm, boasts three distinctive sales support modules: Salestream which provides remote access to Tolas via Teletext, Prestel or a PC terminal, Telestream which offers a number of on screen mini-expert systems, and the Leadstream automated storing and tracking system which operates at different levels within the sales cycle. GSI already has some 350 Tolas customers in Europe, the US, and Canada; GSI UK is confidently predicting 10 major Tolas orders by year-end, and a UKP1.5m software turnover for the three UK units by 1992. Prices for Tolas systems start at UKP35,000.

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