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Is CSC set for Sema takeover?

Schlumberger, the world’s largest oilfield services group, may be close to selling the outsourcing arm of its European IT company Sema to US company Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC).

Company insiders say IBM, Hewlett-Packard and CSC have all been rumoured to be potential suitors for Sema in recent weeks, with CSC emerging as the favourite.

A report in the Birmingham Post last week said that the Schlumberger board had considered the disposal at a recent meeting and that an announcement to the stock market is imminent.

Schlumberger, however, refused to comment on the possible sale. “The company doesn’t comment on rumour or market speculation,” a spokesman said.

The report said that any disposal of the outsourcing arm would affect a large proportion of the group’s 6,000 UK staff, including many based at its large office on Birmingham Business Park.

City and IT analysts have been concerned about Schlumberger’s foray into IT services. In its fourth-quarter trading figures in December, Schlumberger revealed a $3.17bn (£2bn) charge against its profits to reflect the fall in value of its IT business, acquired for more than £3bn in April 2001.

When the deal was announced Anthony Miller, an analyst with Ovum, said, "There appears to be no obvious rationale for this acquisition, which does not match with where Sema is today."

SchlumbergerSema is heavily involved in bidding for work in the £2.3bn NHS IT modernisation and its clients include the Metropolitan Police. It also operates a standalone telecoms billing systems business, which operates globally with customers such as BT and Vodafone.

Schlumberger’s possible disposal of Sema follows Invensys’ recent bargain basement sell-off of Baan, its software business, which it acquired for £466m in 2000.

 


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