Most corporations will complete their work on Year 2000 compliance in time for the millennium, leaving little impact on the economy and certainly no Armageddon.
This was the unexpected claim of a major new report from finance house Merrill Lynch.
The 450-page document - 'Y2K: Implications for Investors' - is the result of contacting 3,000 corporations round the world to assess their readiness and their views on the problem.
Merrill Lynch is sanguine. "We do not see Armageddon, but, like every space flight so far, there is an element of the unforeseen. If there are glitches, and there always are, companies expect to manage their way through them as they do in power blackouts," concluded the report.
Contrary to just about every other survey and analyst report up to now, the report does not believe that companies are running out of time to complete compliance projects.
"In general, companies are reasonably confident of their own Y2K preparations, but uncertain about those same efforts by their suppliers and customers," said a statement from the Merrill Lynch research team.
One senior IT analyst said that it was important to bear in mind Merrill Lynch's potential motives as an investment house in portraying the potential impact on shareholders, and said that different interpretations could possibly be considered from their data.
For example, Dr Ed Yardeni, chief economist of Deutsche Bank Securities, has predicted a 30 per cent fall in stock market values from anticipation and impact of the Year 2000 problem.
The danger of interconnected networks creating a domino chain reaction, bringing down large numbers of systems, has even convinced the world's largest corporates and the US government that there is real reason to fear economic and even social dislocation.
Merrill Lynch's report completely dismisses such concern.
"Our own view is that the very complexity and dispersion of these systems is, in fact, insurance against a complete shutdown of commerce when the millennium starts. There won't be a domino effect, because there are lots of switches throughout the system that will put on brakes," said one of the report's authors, senior analyst Jeanne Terrile.
In May the US Federal Reserve governor, Edward Kelley, warned of the potential impact on the global economy from the Year 2000 problem.
"The Year 2000 problem will touch more than just our financial system and could temporarily have adverse effects on the performance of the overall US economy as well as the economies of many, or all, other nations if it is not corrected," he said.
Based on its own surveys of the largest 500 US organisations, he said the Federal Reserve estimated that US businesses would have to spend about $50 billion on solving the Year 2000 issue, causing lost productivity and thereby a drop in gross domestic product - a measure of overall economic activity.
In contrast, Merrill Lynch claimed companies would not be constrained by the cost of fixing the problem, concurring with those commentators who have argued that all the system audits, changes and replacements could actually improve overall productivity.
"Few companies expect earnings to be noticeably affected by Y2K expenses, although the cost of compliance is reported to be higher in the US than elsewhere," said the report.
Any earnings impact would come from companies' failure to keep down costs should any systems fail in 2000.
In Europe, the report says that companies see Y2K and European Monetary Union as an "opportunity to upgrade their systems". Despite other analysts' concerns that the already fragile Japanese banking system could be severely damaged by the Year 2000, Merrill Lynch claimed the millennium was a silver lining - an opportunity for Japan to replace its proprietary IT systems with new, more standard applications.
Asia has mainly new systems that are already compliant, except for China where, the report said, it was not seen as a priority by central government and only half of the companies surveyed expected to be compliant - the lowest figure internationally.
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