Ashton-Tate Inc, Torrance, California, has postponed indefinitely its public offering of about 2m new shares. Ashton-Tate was the one major micro software company to see its shares fall in instant reaction to the IBM Personal System/2 announcement, on the fear that IBM’s planned SQL relational database building blocks to be integrated into its OS/2 Extended operating system will hurt Ashton-Tate’s dBase III. That product presently accounts for about 60% of Ashton-Tate’s $200m or so annual turnover. Ashton-Tate’s shares had traded as high as $29 in February, but uncertainty fuelled by the IBM announcement has driven them down into a $22 to $24 trading range. A key problem for Ashton-Tate is that because of US security laws that bar a company from talking about anything that is not contained in the prospectus after a share issue has been announced, the company has been unable to explain its plans for countering any threat that might be posed by IBM’s forthcoming database offerings. The company will now be talking to analysts next week.
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