SAN MATEO (04/21/2000) - Merrill Lynch and HSBC Holdings are spending up to $1 billion to start a global online banking and investment services company. With headquarters in London, the new company will begin operating later this year in the United Kingdom, followed by Australia, Canada, Germany, Hong Kong, and Japan, officials at the companies said last week. Operations will open in other parts of the world at a later date. However, the venture will not provide services in the United States, the officials said. The venture initially will be called Merrill Lynch HSBC, but a formal name will soon be announced. Merrill Lynch and HSBC Holdings each will own 50 percent of the new company.

KEVIN MCKAY resigned last week from his post as CEO of SAP America, and SAP AG veteran Wolfgang Kemna from SAP in Germany will serve as his replacement.

"Kevin decided, for personal reasons, to pursue alternatives outside of SAP," according to a prepared statement from the company. The resignation was effective immediately.

McKay also was a member of the extended executive board of SAP. Chris Larsen serves as president of Newtown Square, Pennyslvania-based SAP America.

Before the SAP board accepted McKay's resignation, executives at the major ERP (enterprise resource planning) player had proposed that McKay assume the role of CFO for the SAP group worldwide, a SAP spokesman said.

Industry analysts speculate that Kemna will hold the post only until a permanent replacement is found.

McKay, analysts also said, governed during a difficult time for SAP, when demand for its core ERP platform dropped. SAP has subsequently had an uphill struggle to adjust to changing market conditions, they said.

SAP officials would not comment further on the matter.

NORTEL NETWORKS announced plans last week to acquire Architel Systems, which makes services software for telecommunications providers, in an all-stock deal valued at $395 million.

Nortel officials said the acquisition will help to grow its Preside portfolio, which includes software that allows applications such as virtual private networking and voice over DSL to work with many network types.

Architel's software will become a key component of Preside and will help service providers activate and provision new services for individual customers in a matter of minutes instead of the weeks or months it takes in many networks, according to Nortel officials.

Nortel officials also said that the acquisition complements its acquisition of customer-care software maker Clarify, which Nortel announced plans to buy in October for $2.1 billion.

The Architel transaction is expected to close early in the third quarter of this year and is subject to customary regulatory approvals, court approval, and approval by Architel's shareholders, Nortel officials said in a statement.

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