Even with no shareholding in the company, Fujitsu Ltd of Tokyo has a clear say in the future of ICL Ltd and therefore of its parent STC Plc. That has become clear with the news that Northern Telecom Ltd has agreed to reduce its stake in STC back down to the 24% that it acquired from ITT from its present 28% or so. The idea that Northern Telecom might one day move to make a full bid for STC was always a little fanciful: its present holding gives it all the benefits available from being associated with STC, and in the international telecommunications market, the UK is but one small outpost. Any further cash Northern has to invest will be earmarked for alliances on the continent and elsewhere. It is noteworthy that although this time around, it has been made clear that the Fujitsu connection is the reason that Northern is being asked to reduce its stake, last time around, when ITT’s holding rose and the company said it wanted to raise it further, it was said to be the British Government’s desire that ICL be seen to be independent and British that persuaded ITT to reduce its stake. The UK government need no longer be so overt: it can simp-ly point to Tokyo and the Fujitsu deal upon which ICL’s survival as a mainframer depends to see off any predator for STC. If STC management is determined to retain the company’s independence, all it needs to do is to hang on to ICL; if it wants to put itself up for sale, it must first float off ICL. At present that would be easy enough: integration of ICL with STC is at best tenuous. The way the STC management is thinking can be judged by whether it moves to integrate ICL further with its own businesses or leaves it in splendid isolation.
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