Business Objects says merger will simplify plans

Business-intelligence software customers may find that their buying decisions are easier after Business Objects' planned acquisition of rival Crystal Decisions.

At least that's what San Jose-based Business Objects claims, now that it has widened its product offerings. The company said the US$820 million merger, announced July 18, will give it the lead in the business-intelligence marketplace and open up new cross-selling opportunities and wider geographic penetration. Additionally, Business Objects hopes to be better able to attract companies looking to standardize on just one business-intelligence applications vendor.

Executives are emphasizing the differences between the companies' respective portfolios. Although both vendors offer reporting products, they serve different needs, said John Olsen, president and chief operating officer of Business Objects. He explained that Crystal's products are used by IT professionals to design reports and send them out cheaply to tens of thousands of users, whereas Business Objects' applications are tailored to power users who need to format their own queries on the fly and do extensive dicing and slicing of the data.

Currently, there are no plans to phase out any applications, and all rollouts will continue as scheduled, Olsen said. While the integration road map will take several months to cobble together, he predicted that the first step will be to roll out a portal giving users access to both companies' reporting applications from a single interface.

That announcement was reassuring to David Rewerts, IT systems analyst at Principal Financial Group in Des Moines. Although Principal uses Crystal software, it's primarily standardized on Business Objects, relying on products such as the WebIntelligence application.

The combined resources of the companies would most likely result in better efficiencies of scale and improved research and development efforts, Rewerts said. It also demonstrates the business health and long-term viability of Business Objects, he added. "One of the things we really look at when looking at vendors is their market strength," he said. "Anytime they show their financial strength just helps build our story (internally)."

Such optimism isn't universal, despite the official reassurances.

"I have yet to see a merger of companies making similar products in which one or both products weren't significantly affected," said Charles Castleberry, assistant director of IT architecture at Los Angeles-based Fox Filmed Entertainment, a subsidiary of Fox Entertainment Group. The company uses Crystal products for decision support. Given its widespread use, Castleberry expects to see Crystal Reports continue to be used for report development and simple deployment, possibly even replacing Business Objects' own development tool.

On the other hand, it's likely that the Business Objects analytical tools will become more widely used, as that technology is the company's forte.

From an industry point of view, this is just the beginning of widespread consolidation aimed in part at fending off Microsoft, said analyst Eric Rogge at Ventana Research. It also means that smaller vendors may either fade or be acquired, as companies such as Business Objects and Cognos roll out more integrated product lines, Rogge added.

Illustrating his point, Hyperion Solutions Wednesday announced a deal to acquire query and reporting tools vendor Brio Software in a cash-and-stock transaction valued at about $142 million. Hyperion expects to complete the purchase of Brio by year's end.

Brio lost $16.6 million on revenue of $103.1 million in the fiscal year that ended March 31, and Wednesday it reported a first-quarter loss of $2.1 million on revenue of $24.8 million. Meanwhile, Hyperion Wednesday said that it had a $9.2 million profit and revenue of $138 million in its fourth quarter, which ended June 30.

The two vendors had combined revenue of $613 million during the past 12 months, according to Hyperion. Jeff Rodek, Hyperion's chairman and CEO, said in a statement that the acquisition of Brio will give his company a full set of data analysis tools for supporting both strategic and day-to-day decision-making related to corporate business performance. Hyperion also signed a separate agreement that lets it immediately start reselling Brio's products.

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More about BRIOBrio SoftwareBusiness ObjectsCognosCrystal DecisionsFox Entertainment GroupFox Filmed EntertainmentHyperion solutionsMicrosoftPrincipal Financial Group

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