MYOB cashes in on new age post offices

MYOB, the ASX-listed developer of accounting software, has forged an alliance through which it will offer MYOB users access to Internet-based electronic bill presentment and payment services offered by Australia Post. The POSTbillpay service was released last week and Australia Post will work with MYOB to provide a co-branded bill presentment and payment portal for SMEs.

A spokesman said the initial service will give users of MYOB's software the ability to view and pay their bills online, with automatic updating of their accounting records. It is expected that the service will be ready for a pilot trial early in 2001. Enhancements to follow include the use of the service by SMEs to deliver bills to their own customers.

"Our goal is to increase customers' efficiency by making their business processes easier," explained Craig Winkler, CEO of MYOB. "By providing a simple online bill presentment and payment service that integrates with our software, we feel we go a long way to simplifying the billing process for MYOB customers."

Australia Post's newly-released electronic services cover more than just online bill paying. A spokesman said they amount to an integrated Internet-based solution to warehousing, fulfilment, delivery, billing and payment needs, with particular attention to electronic retailing.

A spokesman said Australia Post had spent $A500 million to create an advanced mail processing system that will meet Australia's needs for the foreseeable future. "Now we're offering all businesses an advanced range of services to assist their transition to electronic commerce," he added.

Telco buys IT services company

Listed wholesale telephony carrier Telco Australia has agreed to buy a 45 per cent stake in IT services provider Next Systems at a cost of $A2.3 million. The deal will be financed by a mixture of cash and shares.

Next, which provides consulting and systems integration services as well as software and hardware, will use the investment to increase its sales and marketing efforts for its software and hardware operations and to extend its operations in NSW. Telco will help the company with a planned IPO late next year or early in 2002.

A spokesman said that Next generated revenue of $A4 million in the year to June 30, and expects to lift that to $A7.7 million this financial year, when it is claimed to be "on track" to make a net profit of $A525,000.

NetComm sells down stake in Lineo

As it undertakes a metamorphosis from modem manufacturer to broadband carrier NetComm has raised $A2.63 million in cash by selling its share in Linux software developer Lineo. NetComm had acquired its stake in the US company after it bought a 19.9 per cent interest in Moreton Bay Ventures in November 1999. Lineo then purchased Moreton Bay in June 2000, and NetComm received Lineo shares in exchange for its Moreton Bay holding at a paper profit of about $A1 million. The sale of the shares has now realised a further $A650,000.

"The share sale at this time is a good strategic decision for NetComm because it delivers funds for development when they are needed," explained David Steward, NetComm's managing director. "We will use the funds to retire debt".

NetComm retains a licence for the Linux technology, which is designed into several of its products, including the Smart I-Share and new DSL modems. Lineo remains the third largest shareholder in NetComm.

Voicenet tests mobile voice portal

Voicenet and Telecom New Zealand have completed testing of their jointly developed Mobile Voice Portal Project which is expected to enable phone users to listen to e-mails and Internet information.

A spokesman said the portal is a fully automated system that uses speech recognition technology to understand what the caller is requesting and text-to-speech technology to speak to the caller. Users access information from a voice portal with spoken commands but the portal is also able to convert spoken English into text instructions.

The trials were conducted by Telecom NZ with its own staff to test the functionality of the e-mail application. The next phase of testing, with additional applications, will take place later this month.

POSMedia and Optus check out satellites

Cable & Wireless Optus and POSMedia Online have agreed to work together to investigate opportunities for delivering multimedia services to a range of customers via satellite. "This agreement and the use of satellite technology means that city and regional customers can be part of the same satellite network," explained Bob Murray, general manager of satellite services at Optus.

The two companies will spread their marketing efforts across the whole spectrum -- from consumer users to SOHO applications, SMEs and the corporate and government markets. Revenue from the sourcing and management of content to the set top boxes, as well as from the deployment of the system itself, will be shared by the two companies.

Optus already provides satellite delivery services to POSMedia's national network of shopping centre outlets.

Business briefs

Davnet has formed a partnership with Singaporean company InnoMedia to develop an IP-based multimedia product. InnoMedia will provide the technology and product development expertise, while Davnet will market the product through its corporate clients and other channels.

Powerlan has completed a private placement of 16.7 million shares at $A1.20 to raise $A20 million. The funds raised will be used to finance the company's growing Asian operations, the Powerlan Finance equipment financing business, the company's careers institute and upgrades to the Powerlan Portfolio Management System.

Telstra decided that depressed share prices for Solution 6 had fallen too low to justify it exercising options that would have increased its holding in Solution 6 from 19.76 per cent to 25 per cent. Telstra has a current undiluted holding of 22.7 per cent.

Wall Street has been shaken by rumours that Microsoft is considering an investment of about $US1 billion in News Corp. If the deal goes ahead it will represent about 3.5 per cent of Global Networks, the company News formed early this year to consolidate all of its global satellite TV operations and investments.

Making the most of its marketplace momentum (see this week's Insider Edition section) ERG has undertaken a three-for-one share split. At the close of market on the day before the split ERG's shares were trading at $A9.45 each.

Listed laser technology company Silex Systems has bought patents for the Silicon Isotope Superlattice (SIS) semiconductor technology that the company claims has the potential to increase computer speeds by a factor of 100. Silex bought the rights from the inventor Professor Kohei Itoh and Keio University in Japan. "Our relationship with Professor Itoh and Keio University is a further step toward fulfilling our commitment to exploit our technology in broader markets," claimed Dr Michael Goldsworthy, CEO of Silex.

Corporate quarters at home

ERG Group lifted revenue to $A415.7 million in its 1999/2000 financial year. Net profit after tax for the year rose to $A35.2 million. During the year the company raised its R&D spending to $A58.4 million, most of which was spent on the multi-application smart card solution software. The dividend for the year was increased to two cents.

Information technology and e-commerce IT&e lifted revenue 14.9 per cent to $A14.880 million in the first quarter of the 2000/01 financial year. EBITDA increased by more than 400 per cent to $A911,671. IT&e was formed by the merger of Microarts Australia, Internet Access Australia, TotalNet and Comsolve Financial Systems in 1999, and listed on the ASX last December.

Corporate quarters abroad

National Semiconductor added to the air of gloom that surrounded NASDAQ early in the week when it warned that sales and profits for the second quarter to November 26 will be below those of the first quarter. A statement released by the company noted that shipments in the quarter will be impacted by inventory corrections by customers in the mobile phone market, while bookings for personal computer products had strengthened but at a lower rate than expected.

Computer Sciences Corporation lifted revenue 12 per cent from $US2.232 billion to $US2.498 billion and net profit 17 per cent from $US93.1 million to $US109.0 million in its second quarter to September 29. The company noted that revenue growth from its Australian operation was impacted by the outsourcing deals with GE Capital and BHP and the acquisition of their respective IT operations.

LookSmart, the Australian Internet search engine with its shares on NASDAQ, lifted third quarter revenue 151 per cent from $US13.3 million to $US33.4 million and cut its operating loss from $US17.3 million a year ago to $US6.7 million.

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