The strain of combining the jobs of software developer and executive chairman of a publicly quoted company appeared to be showing on Phillipe Kahn’s face when he visited London the other day. The visit of the Borland International Inc chief executive to the City appeared to be a knee-jerk reaction to a revised profit forecast from his company’s broker Barclay de Zoete Wedd which a couple of weeks earlier had called a sharp two-day fall in Borland’s share price. Kahn, however, attributed his London sojourn to a new product, Sprint, a word processing engine, which he wanted to preview properly rather than let details leak out over the next few months. The problem with that explanation is that it flies in the face of Borland’s previous behaviour. Borland had never launched a product in London before, nor had it announced a product with such a long lead time before. And, it came at a time when Borland’s ability to deliver the products it had previously announced was under question. When Borland floated, it insisted it was not another Mrs Fields. Mrs Fields is, of course, the American cookie company that came to the Unlisted Securities Market just before Borland and found it difficult to find buyers for its shares, leaving most of them in the hands of the underwriters. Borland has been proved right. Its shares got away comfortably enough, but they have subsequently been outperformed by Mrs Fields. Instead of showing new products, however good – and Sprint looks very good indeed – Borland should be concentrating on getting Turbo Basic and the two other packages, announced at Comdex/Fall in November for delivery by the end of the year, to the market. Kahn says only that they will be delivered before June – six months late on an original lead time of under six weeks. The City is understandably nervous. It usually is with US firms, even those run by Frenchmen, that come first to London rather than New York for their listing.
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