Saturday, 15 December 2007

A miscellany of news items

Just a few of the news items that took my interest in the last few days:

  • There seems to be a flurry of bid news in the UK SITS sector with Northgate, NSB and Xploite all receiving offers in the last week. If anything, an economic downturn is likely to accelerate activity - particularly from trade buyers with cash (and there are quite a few of those) who have baulked at recent prices .
  • Could the flurry of M&A be connected with the new CGT regime with buyers trying to beat the 5th Apr 08 deadline? Probably not. But this CGT issue has turned from a bad news story to a disaster. The original announcement looked ill-thought through. Anyone would think Labour hadn’t been in power for a decade and had thought it all up over a weekend on the back of a fag packet. After repeated promises to announce amendments before Xmas, Darling bottled it. Nothing short of a complete reversal will satisfy me (and many others) now. My bet would be on an announcement in the New Year that the new regime is being postponed until 2009.
  • On the subject of M&A, I think I got my $ and £ muddled in the likely price that Microsoft paid for Multimap.It looks like they paid $50m or c£25m. Given Multimap’s £12m revenue, it looks even more of a ‘good deal ‘ for Microsoft.
  • Whilst on the subject of Multimap, I commend you to read the Profile of Sean Phelan – Multimap’s founder - in The Times on 13th Dec 07. The REAL reason why we don’t have that many new world beating tech companies being setup in the UK anymore is, in my view, down to the UK not producing enough youngsters interesting in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects. As I have written on so many occasions, the numbers studying STEM subjects - at school, A Level and university- is crashing down. Now about half that of 2000.
    It was not always the case. Back “in my day” STEM subjects were compulsory and, in the 1950s and 1960s, a much higher proportion of A levels were in STEM subjects. This produced the people who created the great British Tech companies of the 1960s. Remember NINE out of the TOP TEN suppliers to the UK tech market in the late 1960s were British companies. Sean Phelan (now aged 49) is a rare, more recent example. Phelan took Engineering and Computer Science at Sussex University in the 1970s where he was sponsored by MARCONI. That gave him the foundation to form Multimap in 1995.
    If we had more British students taking STEM subjects and more British technology companies sponsoring them, we would get more Multimaps. But maybe, just like the great British tech companies of the 1960s, they'd all get bought by US companies in the end anyway!
  • Ashley Highfield, the BBC’s Director of Future Media and Technology (who addressed our (Prince’s Trust Technology Leadership Group) Summer reception, has an excellent interview in today’s FT "BBC backs better broadband to prevent digital divide". Personally I think that what the BBC (and therefore Highfield) is doing in bringing BBC material to a wider audience on the net is fantastic. As Highfield says “viewing of BBC1 by 16 to 24 yr olds has dropped quite markedly” and it is essential for the BBC’s survival that this age group is addressed. As we all know, this is the generation that prefers to get their kicks from the web – Youtube, Facebook etc. – rather than via the established media.
  • Google has announced that it is adding blogs to its search facility. As you might expect, I think that’s a great idea! So anything I might write on the subject of, say, Northgate will now appear in a standard Google search. You had to navigate to Google’s "Search Blogs" page before. This can only increase the importance of blogs to mainstream companies. Problem is, of course, that many (most?) blogs are ….well, let’s just say ‘not up to the standard that Holway’s HotViews aspires to”.

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