Sema clients look less secure after US takeover

Customers of the IT outsourcing company Sema could be at risk of poorer service, following its agreed takeover by Schlumberger...

Customers of the IT outsourcing company Sema could be at risk of poorer service, following its agreed takeover by Schlumberger Oilfield Service.

Arlene Martin

Analysts have warned that the US firm's intention to transfer Sema's IT expertise to its oilfield services customers in North America and elsewhere, could blunt Sema's innovation in its dealings with existing clients in Europe.

Schlumberger, which is to buy Sema for £3.6bn, is one of the world's leading suppliers of technology and services to the international petroleum industry. The acquisition of Sema enables it to provide its customers with fully integrated information solutions.

Many of Sema's existing clients are government organisations, including the Metropolitan Police, which are unlikely to be of interest to the new buyer. Analysts warn that Sema may be tempted to sell these on to a third-party, especially as Sema's break-up value was widely considered to be higher than its sale price before this week's takeover.

Anthony Miller, an analyst with Ovum Holway, said: "There appears to be no obvious rationale for this acquisition, which does not match with where Sema is today. It appears that [Schlumberger] might just be building a glorified in-house IT services department."

He went on to suggest that EDS was a potential buyer for Sema's clients but expressed doubts about the practicality and logistics of such a move.

He added, "Schlumberger have no option but to fulfill any existing contracts. If they decide to keep these contracts on until their expiry dates, they will not renew them. On a day-to-day outsourcing level, clients should have no concerns. The uncertainty lies with strategic IT developments".

Graham Fisher, IT analyst at Bloor Research, said that existing customers could be sold on but added that the acquisition might have been motivated by Schlumberger's desire to gain access to Europe at a time when it was forging ahead of America in wireless technology.

Senior industry analyst at Gartner UK, Robert Brown, warned that there was now a serious risk of intellectual flight from Sema, depending on how effectively Schlumberger managed the integration of the company.

Representatives of Sema were unavailable for comment.

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