Business Briefs

SAN MATEO (03/10/2000) - Voice-software vendor Lernout & Hauspie Speech Products Inc. (L&H) last week agreed to buy dictation and call-center company Dictaphone Corp. The acquisition will boost L&H's presence in the medical dictation market and allow it to expand sales of Dictaphone products in Europe and the Asia-Pacific region, L&H officials said. L&H will exchange approximately 4.5 million of its shares to acquire 100 percent of privately held Dictaphone. At L&H's closing Nasdaq price of $107.5 on the day of the acquisition, the deal would be worth approximately $510.6 million. L&H plans to utilize Dictaphone's medical dictation and transcription products to create products that will reduce the cost of transcription and patient record management.

Sun Microsystems Inc. last week unveiled its iForce initiative, a broad program of services and solutions to help dot-com start-ups and transitional companies map out online strategies and quickly get their businesses on the Web.

Sun Chairman and CEO Scott McNealy emphasized that, in order for companies to explode in the dot-com arena, they need to have their business strategies and processes mapped out and ready to go, which is exactly what iForce is positioned to do.

The iForce initiative gathers many of Sun's existing dot-com offerings under one umbrella and adds a series of new partnerships and programs to help companies get online. Sun said it will invest $300 million to start the program.

At the core of the iForce initiative is the iForce Community, a collection of partners brought together by Sun to collaborate on creating new services and product offerings for customers. One program, called Sun Startup Accelerator, aims to provide selected start-up companies with access to a professionally managed development and testing environment to help kick start their Internet-based businesses. The environment includes preconfigured Sun hardware along with software from Sun, Oracle, and iPlanet.

French management consultant Cap Gemini SA and IT services provider Cisco Systems Inc. last week said they will form a joint venture that is designed to help telecommunications carriers, service providers, and cable companies put corporate networks in place.

As part of the deal, Cisco will invest $835 million in the Cap Gemini Group, with $164 million of that going toward the new joint company and the rest directly into Cap Gemini, Cisco officials said.

When the deal closes, Cisco will own 2.6 million shares of Cap Gemini and a 4.9 percent share in the new, yet-to-be-named joint company. Cap Gemini, meanwhile, will hold 95.1 percent of the joint venture, which will become a subsidiary of the French company.

The new venture will offer networking products from Cisco, bundled with Cap Gemini's services, officials said. Cap Gemini, which already advises customers on implementing telecommunications networks, will gain products and expertise in the area of IP-based networks, officials added.

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