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Bell Atlantic Corp yesterday announced that it will establish a European clone of its US maintenance business Sorbus Inc, using the spread of maintenance interests it acquired from Bell Canada Enterprises last February as a springboard for growth. The 33 European branches, which are situated in the UK, France, West Germany and Italy will formally take on the Sorbus logo later this month and start attacking the IBM and DEC mainframe maintenance market to fall in line with their model’s mainstream US business. However, John Neal, group managing director of Sorbus Europe Ltd said that each of the national subsidiaries would in parallel maintain individual strengths developed over the years – the UK outfit, Bell Technical Services, for example, has focussed on Data General kit, while its French counterpart is strong in data communications. Bell Atlantic reckons that the European independent (third party) maintenance market is growing much faster than in the US and should exceed $17,000m by 1992, so that third party maintenance will account for 5.4% of the total professional customer services market, from its present 3.1%. The new, expanded, Sorbus will be a key plank in the Philadelphia-based Bell operating company’s $280m turnover customer services division, and Neal estimated that it will earn between 35% and 50% of the division’s revenue over the next 12 months. It will also work closely with Bell Atlantic’s growing computer leasing businesses here and in the US, offering maintenance to leasing customers. Louis Ross, chairman of Sorbus Inc and president of Bell Atlantic’s customer services division said that as Europe’s PTTs are being deregulated, users are turning to independent maintenance to service their corporate networks. He named facilities management as a future area of interest but expects to work in partnership rather than in competition with established players such as Electronic Data Systems. Sorbus Europe also expects to form local alliances with niche suppliers in order to offer single source maintenance to its customers. Sorbus claims that it is making a substantial investment in management information systems to keep track of components and engineers which will be shared between the European offices. In addition, on-line links will be set up, PTTs allowing, to diagnostic facilities based in the US which include a database listing 3,000 component parts. (Under present regulations, such cross border links are forbidden by the Deutsche Bundespost). Teams of US Sorbus personnel have been drafted to European sites since February where they are formulating action plans for marketing, operating logistics and personnel.

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