Cisco buys into online customer management

Cisco officials said yesterday the company has agreed to buy privately held WebLine Communications for $US325 million in stock. WebLine makes software that helps companies build online customer service and commerce applications.

The acquisition is designed to complement Cisco's purchase in April of GeoTel Communications Corp. WebLine's software will be integrated with GeoTel's suite of distributed call centre software, according to Cisco .

WebLine's products include collaboration software that lets multiple users share access to a Web page, form, application or voice call using a software browser. In a customer service scenario, the software could be used to synchronise the Web pages of a customer and a customer support agent so they can work together on a problem, Cisco officials said.

WebLine also makes e-mail management software, which lets large companies handle customer e-mails more effectively by managing the routing and response process, according to Cisco.

WebLine, in Burlington, Massachusetts, has 120 employees who will continue to be led by the company's chief executive officer, Dan Keshian. The company will become part of Cisco's Applications Technology Group, in Lowell, Massachusetts. The group develops infrastructure applications for Cisco's partners and customers.

The acquisition has been approved by the boards of directors of both companies and will be accounted for as a pooling of interests, Cisco officials said. It is expected to close in the second quarter of Cisco's fiscal year 2000, subject to approval by antitrust regulators and other closing conditions.

Cisco common stock worth $325 million will be exchanged for all outstanding shares, warrants and options of WebLine.

WebLine is at least the 12th company Cisco has announced plans to buy this year. Most of the deals are designed to boost Cisco's strategy to help companies build networks that merge voice, video and data into a single infrastructure.

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