Sema customers face uncertain future

Customers of IT outsourcing company Sema could see the quality of service deteriorate following the company's takeover by...

Customers of IT outsourcing company Sema could see the quality of service deteriorate following the company's takeover by Schlumberger Oilfield Services.

Arlene Martin

Customers of IT outsourcing company Sema could see the quality of service deteriorate following the company's takeover by Schlumberger Oilfield Services.

Analysts have warned that Schlumberger's aim of transferring Sema's IT expertise to its oilfield services customers in North America, could lead to a reduction in innovation in Sema's dealings with existing customers.

Schlumberger, which is set to buy Sema for £3.6bn, is a leading supplier of technology services to the petroleum industry. Sema's existing clients include public sector organisations such as the Metropolitan Police and the Government's Gateway project.

Analysts fear that these contracts will be of little interest to the new owner. They also fear that Sema may be tempted to sell these contracts on to a third party since Sema's break-up value was widely thought to be more than its sale price before this week's takeover.

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. It appears that Schlumberger might just be building a glorified in-house IT services department. In theory, it could be thinking of selling Sema's clients to EDS, which was also a potential buyer. However, I would have doubts about the practicality and logistics of such a move.

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

Sema was unavailable for comment at the time of going to press.

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