Baan sell-off rumours fuel concern for users

Invensys has transfered subsidiary Baan's software development operation to India in a move interpreted by some analysts as...

Invensys has transfered subsidiary Baan's software development operation to India in a move interpreted by some analysts as readying the company for sell-off.

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) supplier Baan has a significant presence in the UK manufacturing sector, with customers including BAE Systems, Del Monte and Ellis & Everard.

A sale would leave users uncertain about whether their core software systems would be developed further.

The news is the latest in a series of developments which indicate that engineering group Invensys is looking for a buyer for the software company, according to analyst group Forrester.

Forrester analyst Charles Homs said that Invensys is likely to sell Baan because in a year which has seen its operating profits decline by 41% it has no resources to further develop the company's software.

Homs suggested that likely buyers included Microsoft, Oracle and PeopleSoft. The Netherlands-based analyst said the transfer of development tasks to India was a way of sidestepping religious ties within the firm which are making it difficult to restructure the company for sale.

"The development staff in Holland are from the same conservative Protestant group as the management and this is making it difficult for them to fire them. This move looks like an indication that Invensys is reorganising to make the company more flexible and so more attractive to a potential buyer," said Homs.

According to analyst Steve Banker of ARC consulting, there are two possible futures when software companies are sold. "If a company is acquired with a commitment to further develop software the impact need not be significant.

"If it is being acquired for the customer base in order to gain revenue from maintenance the future is more dicey as that brings an end to product development," he said.

A spokesman for Baan in the UK said, "Baan is core to Invensys and there are no plans to sell it off."

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