IT Boss Logs on in Pounds 12m Deal; Former Rover Finance Chief Takes over Software Company
Williams, Philip, The Birmingham Post (England)
A Midlands IT specialist has keyed into a business software company in a pounds 12.75 million deal.
Former Rover group financial controller Mr Ross Telford has acquired Solihull-based Open Business Solutions, which makes management information systems and electronic commerce software.
The company had sales of pounds 14.7 million last year and employs 200 people in Solihull, Birmingham, Manchester and London.
The sale was bankrolled by the venture capital house 3i, which provided pounds 8 million, with the balance being debt funding from the Allied Irish Bank.
OBS's core business is enterprise resource planning software, which automates business processes and improves management information.
Leading customers include Honda, Kenwood, British Steel, the Ministry of Defence and British Gas. It also sells manufacturing and logistics systems.
"OBS has highly valued skills especially in enterprise resource planning and e-commerce. Our task is to ensure that we capitalise on this fast growing market, where worldwide demand is forecast to reach pounds 31 billion by 2002," Mr Telford said.
Mr Telford, aged 47, started his Midland career as financial controller at Rover in 1978.
He joined AT &T in 1990 and became managing director of the company's health division, taking it into the black.
He left AT&T in 1996 to move to the United States, where he became vice-president of worldwide professional services at NCR, where he employed 1,450 staff and increased its pounds 150 million turnover by 20 per cent in 1997.
He will be joined at OBS by former Istel colleague Mr Peter Teague, who will become a non-executive director.
"My aim has always been to deliver high quality customer solutions," Mr Telford said.
"The key is to anticipate and then exceed customer expectations. Experience has taught me that, above all, you need to employ outstanding people who are totally committed to meeting the names of customers. That is exactly what I have found at OBS."
Advisers to Mr Telford's holding company Anisa were Arthur Andersen and Garretts.
For 3i, the OBS deal was the fourth high-tech deal in a month. The company is investing an estimated pounds 4 million a week in IT companies and currently has a technology portfolio of 542 companies valued at pounds 974 million.
"People are at the heart of our investment philosophy, particularly in the IT sector and an early priority for us has been to set up an employee share scheme at OBS to reward high performers," said Mr Anthony Fraser, investment director for 3i's technology group.
Smaller British companies' main worry about e-commerce is the potential lack of privacy surrounding transactions, a new survey shows.
As the next main drawbacks, over 300 firms questioned last month named passivity - not being able to ask or answer questions immediately - and insecurity for money transactions.
A wider survey of British business recently found that inertia - waiting to see how the medium develops and letting others pioneer it - was the main obstacle to using e-commerce, or business via the Internet or digital interactive television.
"Nearly one quarter of those surveyed expect more than 30 per cent of their sales to be coming from e-commerce by the end of next year," accountants Kingston Smith said.
Improving service to customers and the ability to reach them easily were the top attractions of e-commerce, followed by customer demand and cost reductions.
Despite general enthusiasm for the new medium, almost two thirds of respondents said they would still rather use the telephone.
By PHILIP WILLIAMS
A Midlands IT specialist has logged on to a business software company in a pounds 12. …