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  1. Technology
October 27, 1995


By CBR Staff Writer

Even the poor saps that could only get Netscape Communications Corp shares at $70 to $75 as trading began after the initial public offering are in the money now, as the shares, which have spent most of their public life loitering in the mid-$50s, have taken off for the stratosphere again and on Wednesday jumped $8 to $87.50, valuing the company at $3,500m – the price that IBM Corp paid for Lotus Development Corp; was either worth it? Time will tell, but we rather doubt it.

The planned Motorola Inc-Siemens AG plant in the US sounds horribly like a memory chip plant too far, and you just know that sometime in the next five years, somewhere between the time when the whole world gets satiated with Windows95 and multimedia machines and when every new television set has at least 1Mb of memory in it, there will be a painful hiatus of about 18 months when all the public prints will be full of tales of woe about the semiconductor industry recession; after that of course, demand will pick up again, and those with capacity in place will be sitting pretty.

Meantime, even though the Motorola Inc-Siemens AG memory chip plant – US location unknown – will be a fully integrated facility with assembly and test as well as fabrication on site, doesn’t the Reuters news wire sound as if it is nearly an order of magnitude out in its number to be employed with 13,000? It’s the only source we’ve seen that does have a number – there’s none in the press release, and it should be viewed with some caution.

Houston, Texas-based BMC Software Inc told analysts that it’s actively mulling technology-based acquisition opportunities that will be financed partly with shares, and says it expects to generate $100m in free cash flow over the next two quarters, which would help fund acquisitions: the company, which has repurchased 615,000 shares for about $21m and can buy in another 700,000 under its stock repurchase programme, has suspended transactions to avoid influencing its share price while terms of the acquisitions are ironed out; it said it is looking for technology-based buys similar to its January 1994 acquisition of Patrol Software Pty Ltd (CI No 2,355), which moved it into the open systems business, it said.

Nashville, Tennessee-based A+ Communications Inc has acquired Network USA Paging Corp and renamed the combined firm A+ Network Inc.

Hewlett-Packard Co has already started cutting prices on its new HP Pavilion consumer personal computer line in the US: the cuts, effective immediately, affect the HP Pavilion 7000 series, with reductions of up to $200; it says the six models involved in the price cuts now sell for from $1,800 to $3,000.

Singapore Telecom Ltd’s Singapore Telecom International has taken 45% of a joint venture with Indonesia’s PT Bukaka Telekomindo International, which has an agreement with PT Telkom to install telephones and operate lines in the eastern part of Indonesia: the agreement requires the joint venture to install a total of 403,000 lines in three and a half years and to operate 500,000 other lines belonging to PT Telkom for a 15-year franchise; the estimated capital expenditure for the project is not expected to exceed $400m; the region comprises the islands of Bali, Lombok, Timor, Sulawesi, Maluku, and Irian Jaya.

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Computer Associates International Inc has announced a major investment in a joint business venture in South Africa with one of the locals, Dimension Data Holdings Pty Ltd, to be called Computer Associates Africa, which will be headquartered in Johannesburg, with major branch offices in Durban and Cape Town: the venture was announced by Charlie Wang during his keynote address at the Networkers ’95 Conference at Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, the first international technology conference conducted in Southern Africa; all the company’s software will be marketed and serviced by the new company throughout the Southern African and sub-Saharan regions; Computer Associates software is already established in the region under Compusons Pty Ltd, which over the past decade operated as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Dimension Data; now, all its software will be marketed under the Computer Associates Africa banner.

Tseng Labs Inc, Newtown, Pennsylvania hopes to begin production deliveries of its ET6000 integrated graphics accelerator in the first quarter of 1996, having devoted this year to its development, which, the company says hurt earnings: earlier, Tseng reported that earnings for the third quarter fell to $0.01 a share from $0.11 a year ago (CI No 2,779); it does not see better until the ET6000 becomes a commercially successful product, which it is hoping will happen next year.

With China seriously considering making value-added tax fraud a capital offence, companies like Microsoft Corp are in an uncomfortable position as they try to assert intellectual property rights there: Microsoft says it is losing tens of millions of dollars annually in China, largely because of continuing software piracy, executive vice-president Steven Ballmer told APDJ World Equities Report, with even government ministries using huge quantities of illegal software – at a time when the company is spending heavily on marketing, technical support and maintaining near 80 employees in the country; problem is that as well as an intellectual property, the US has a human rights agenda with China, and companies like Microsoft are not going to look too good if they set up so much static that China starts rounding up and executing the little guys that sell pirated software on the street, and responds in an aggrieved tone to the complaints of rights activists we thought we understood you to say you wanted us to get tough on software piracy; Ballmer says annual revenues from China have yet to get above $10m and the losses restrict the amount of resources the company can afford to commit to the Chinese market.

PC Week has IBM Corp’s director of performance, Kaivalya Dixit, denying the company plans to drop its introduction of the PowerPC 620 for servers (perhaps he’s not familiar with the latest RS/6000 roadmap).

Advanced Hi-Tech Corp, Los Angeles is to acquire UFO Systems Inc of Pittsford, New York, a company best known for its line of ColorFlare colour controllers for high-performance electronic printing and imaging systems for military, commercial and industrial customers: Advanced Hi-Tech already owns Entire Inc, East Rochester, New York supplier of high-end print servers; and AHT Printing Systems Division in El Segundo, which develops of page description languages, printer controllers, and customised printers, and UFO is seen as the missing glue that will enable the others to work together to achieve some synergy.

The new Wang Laboratories Inc, assiduously exploiting the one really valuable franchise the old Wang had, its imaging and workflow technology, has hired one of the leading lights from Lotus Development Corp, Robert Weiler, who has joined the company as senior vice-president and president of its software business; Weiler had most recently served as senior vice-president, worldwide sales and marketing at Lotus, where he was widely acknowledged as one of the driving forces behind the success of Lotus Notes; Weiler left Lotus last week after deciding that he didn’t see himself in a long-time role at IBM Corp.

In Cirrus Logic Inc’s joint venture with AT&T Corp (CI No 2,778), it will own 40% of the venture to AT&T’s 60%; the previously announced $600m expansion and addition of 600 people to the 800 already employed will proceed as planned; Cirrus pays $420m for its 40% of the plant, in Orlando, Florida; Cirrus has capacity for only 15% to 20% of what it sells, and the balance is made for it in foundries.

As for Cirrus Logic Inc’s manufacturing partnerships with United Microelectronics Corp and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co, in the case of the first, a new company, United Silicon Inc will be formed at an estimated cost of up to $1,000m and about half will be funded through equity investments made by United, Cirrus Logic and two other US semiconductor companies, with Cirrus paying $90m; and with Taiwan Semi, Cirrus will expand its current relationship to include a long-term purchase agreement requiring it to lend it about $120m over a three-year period.

Avid Technology Inc vice-president of business development Bob Sullivan says that with its new alliance with Silicon Graphics Inc (CI No 2,779) We are replacing tape-based video and film systems with all computer-based systems for the production of broadcast news, television entertainment and commercials: he told Reuters that there are about 100 large network broadcasters and 2,500 affiliates, each spending from $1m to $5m on tape decks every year, and not yet using computers – This is the last big industry that does not use computers to automate the way they produce their product, said Sullivan – There is an immense financial upside to both companies; and Silicon Graphics systems will help Avid get significant complementary revenue it would not otherwise get from new market areas, he added.

Samsung Electronics Co has opened an ink-jet printer plant capable of turning out 2m printers a year in Suwon, as part of its plan to raise its 1996 export target for ink-jet printers to $150m from an estimated $40m this year, the company said.

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