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US shareholders ratify Spescom's acquisition of a controlling interest in Altris

JSE-listed Spescom Limited has become one of only a handful of South African companies to control an American-listed subsidiary following ratification by US shareholders last week of its acquisition of Altris Software Inc.

The leading South African communications and information technology specialist upped its 17% strategic stake in Altris to a 58% controlling interest with a US$3.7-million (R23-million) injection of working capital into the company.

At the same time it also acquired a 100% interest in Altris' UK operation, which will now undergo a name change to Spescom Ltd. (UK).

Altris is a global leader in integrated electronic document management software, with well established channels to international markets, and a strong customer base comprising Fortune 500 enterprises.

"The strategic significance of this acquisition is profound for Spescom and is a major step towards implementing our vision of globalisation," comments Spescom's executive chairman, Tony Farah.

Farah went on to note that the main attractions attached to the deal were good management, outstanding technology in a high-growth, high-margin market, and Spescom's confidence that Altris will quickly attain a market capitalisation of $100-million.

"We believe that this transaction will provide us with a strong foothold in the e-business arena, and that our joint product offerings will lead to a truly significant global market share."

For its part, the transaction gives Altris all rights to Spescom's flagship EMS 2000 knowledge management product and a much needed capital boost.

"We are delighted Altris shareholders have overwhelmingly approved this agreement with Spescom," confirms Altris President and CEO, Roger Erickson.

"The company can now move forward with a much healthier balance sheet and a strong technology partner, both of which will assist us to expand our e-business capabilities and exploit related ASP (Application Service Provider) opportunities."

The first phase of the integration of Spescom's EMS2000 knowledge management system with Altris' latest generation, leading edge eB integrated document management suite is complete, with further integration still in progress. This will result in an extremely powerful and flexible product for accessing and managing any type of information from a single interface.

This will offer unique capabilities to a number of markets worldwide in an industry sector analysts predict will be worth a total $12.3-billion by 2004. Further initiatives by Altris in delivering document management services to a broader business market via ASP solutions are also likely to give Spescom a competitive boost into this fast growing market sector, expected to be worth an additional $22-billion by 2003.

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