Anglo-French integrator Sema Group wants to enter the US market within 30 days, even if it means major upheaval among the company?s financial backers, as state deregulation starts integrators bidding to win huge utility contracts.
When a financial institution owns over 25 per cent of a company, US authorities only allow it to conduct banking activity in the country. French institution Paribanque holds a 51 per cent stake in Financiere Sema, which owns 41 per cent of Sema Group. Although Paribanque only owns 20.9 per cent of Sema Group directly, its stake in Financiere Sema is counted by the US.
The US has so far restricted Sema?s Atlanta operation to software sales but corporate communications director Marie-Claude Bessis said: "We have just heard that at the end of June the legislation may be softened. Our strategy is to reach the US on a wider basis."
CEO Pierre Bonelli, formerly with Texas Instruments, is determined to win US outsourcing and SI contracts, Bessis said. "To be a multi-national we need the same service everywhere. We are a European company with global reach and global customers."
Sema hopes to force American authorities to change their rules or change its ownership to get a foothold in the US market, because utility deregulation in many US states will open markets to utility companies who will provide huge SI and outsourcing contracts to integrators who have a big enough US presence.
Sema financial director William Bitan said: "We have talked to federal authorities for years about changes in legislation." He admitted Paribanque may sell part of its holding in Sema. "I cannot answer on their behalf but they could think about that solution," Bitan said. Sema?s North American sales made up just one per cent of its 1996 turnover of #927 million.
Deregulation is set to help Logica, according to Jim Davis, chairman and CEO of Logica?s US arm, Logica Inc. "We are keeping a close eye on Sema. Logica has gone through a tough time but we are heading for an explosion of deregulation business," he admitted.
Davis said New England will implement deregulation from 1998 until 2005 and its utilities are accepting tenders from SIs that have won similar UK contracts. "Imagine - 20 or 30 states will follow, all about the size of the UK, and we have proved we can help."
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