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February 10, 1999


By CBR Staff Writer

The rapid consolidation of French IT services companies, marked by a recent series of acquisitions (CI No 3,593), could hit the UK, admits Sopra, the French services company. Sopra is an expanding Paris, France-based software and services company. It was formed in 1968 and has been supplying banking software and middleware for over 20 years. 57% of its revenues come from its systems integration services, the remaining 43% from software sales. The company now has offices in Belgium, Germany, Switzerland and the UK, as well as at 20 locations in its native France. It latest expansion was to open a UK office in spring 1998, launching three applications from its product range soon after. Pierre-Yves Commanay, managing director of the UK subsidiary said the strategy is to gain UK awareness and market penetration, then follow through with services accounts to its software customers. Jean Mounet, Sopra’s vice-president, described the move as a Trojan horse. This mirrors the strategy of the company as a whole, exploiting the complementary nature of its software and services divisions. The flagship product for the UK assault is Sopra’s Euroconverter, which, as the name suggests, provides system-wide compatibility to the European single currency. Although the UK has yet to commit to joining the euro, Mounet is convinced it is only a matter of time. Already Euroconverter contracts have been won with IT heavyweights IBM, Microsoft and Bull. Currently the Sopra UK product range is limited to Euroconverter, file transfer management system XFB, and Pack Centre, a systems management application. Commanay explained that the UK subsidiary will phase in its heavyweight software including its banking and financial software, around the middle of 1999. He says this will be followed with systems integration contracts. The heavyweights include Joker, Sopra’s integrated banking system, loan package Tokos, and Luca, an accounts reporting package. The company claims to have 600 customers for its banking software in France alone. Sopra also provides Ikos and Pleiades packages, which deal with human resources and real estate. Sopra continues to focus on the financial vertical markets. Financial organizations account for 35% of its customers. The company intends to match its geographical expansion with a deeper penetration into these markets. Mounet told Computergram the group was looking to acquire systems integrators present in large accounts, particularly in the target sectors of manufacturing and utilities, as we’re stronger in banking. In the UK we’re open to all opportunities, but we’re especially interested in expanding in the banking sector. Its main targets are medium-sized service companies with a staff of between 200 and 1,000 people. Sopra is listed on the Paris stock exchange but is still over half owned by its founders, CEO Pierre Pasquier and Francois Odin. The other major shareholder is Societe Generale, which has a 10.21% direct stake, and a 5.6% indirect stake gained through its subsidiary Geninfo. A further 30% of shares are on the market. Sopra reported net income for 1997 of FF45.29m (approximately $7.8m), on revenues of FF1.4bn ($236m). It will reveal its 1998 figures March 1999, and predicts it will report revenues of 275m euros ($311m). The company has a workforce in excess of 3000 people, 80% of whom are software developers and consultants.

This article is part of ComputerWire’s European Computer Services information service. Some articles from the service are being provided to ComputerGram subscribers for a trial period only.

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