When Oracle’s lawyers needed to bolster their courtroom argument that the company’s proposed acquisition of PeopleSoft should not be blocked on the grounds that it would reduce competition in the business applications market, they were quick to cite the name of a company that – only a few years back – had been written off as a casualty of those same competitive forces.
SSA, the Chicago-based company that now appends ‘Global Technologies’ to its name to distinguish it from its namesake that went into Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in May 2000 and sold its assets to Wall Street financiers Gores Technology for $52 million plus a one-quarter share in the new company, is not just revived, says the Oracle defence. It has risen to become a powerful competitor by feeding its voracious appetite for acquisition.
And as if to underscore Oracle’s point, mid-way through the courtroom drama, on 1 July, SSA obligingly swooped on Marcam, the venerable vendor of process manufacturing software, only two weeks after having slotted new logistics and global trade management technology from start-up Arzoon into its portfolio.
And that portfolio is certainly broad: the latest additions follow the acquisition of supply chain, manufacturing and business applications vendors in the form of Computer Associates’ interBiz division, Baan, Infinium Software, Ironside Technologies, Elevon, ICL Max International and EXE Technologies – a combination that is designed to fulfil the company’s ambition of reaching a $1 billion in revenues by the end of calendar 2004.
Its new trophy, Marcam, brings SSA an array of enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications – including software sold under the brand names Protean, Prism and Avantis for order, inventory and schedule management, purchasing, costing and financials – used by more than 1,000 mid-sized and large organisations.
Analysts suggest Marcam complements last year’s purchase of Baan in two ways. Both were bought from struggling engineering conglomerate Invensys, and both sell ERP software to the manufacturing industry, which makes up the vast majority of SSA’s customers, with Baan leaning more towards discrete manufacturing and Marcam process manufacturing.
Meta Group and AMR Research say the combination of EXE, Baan and now Arzoon over the last year has indeed put SSA in a strong position to challenge ERP giants with its ‘best-of-breed’ products, especially in the supply chain management (SCM) arena. However, executives at Oracle and other vendors of ERP suites counter that by pointing to the lack of integration between SSA’s acquired lines.
The build up has certainly inflated SSA’s revenues. Even before the Marcam acquisition the company was on target for revenues of between $600 and $650 million in its fiscal year to the end of July. But one further expected event is bringing its full rehabilitation in sight: The company aims to wipe out its historical debts, plus make further acquisitions, with the $200 million it hopes to raise in a forthcoming initial public offering.