MAID shares soar on news of IBM link

Shares in MAID soared 26p to 240p yesterday after the on-line business information provider signed an agreement with IBM to supply data through the computer giant's Internet service.

The deal is the latest in a series of alliances that have seen MAID link up with Bill Gates' Microsoft and other leading industry players such as Compuserve, one of the largest consumer on-line information services.

Speaking from California, where IBM is unveiling its strategy for the Internet, Dan Wagner, chief executive of MAID, said the revenue potential from the latest deal was "eye-popping" but refused to give any numbers.

"It has phenomenal implications for us because we are so tiny," he said. "We have always believed that there are many complementary distribution channels for our highly structured databanks of valuable material which are more effectively reached aligned with others rather than in isolation."

He also hinted that more distribution deals are in the pipeline. IBM will distribute MAID's news and research databases through Infomarket, which is part of its new Internet-based corporate information services to be marketed world-wide through IBM's extensive network. "It immediately places IBM as a major business information supplier," said Tom McClain, general manager of IBM's electronic content services division.

In return, MAID will receive what Mr Wagner calls "the lion's share" from the sale of data.

MAID - short for Market Analysis and Information Database - supplies packaged, on-line services such as market research reports, brokers' analysis and company statistics to business professionals for a fee.

The shares have had a roller-coaster ride since being placed on the stock market two years ago at 110p. Investors balked at the idea of paying the original flotation price of 150p, which would have valued a company making profits of pounds 600,000 at more than pounds 120m.

Winning favour in the City continued to prove elusive and the shares slumped to just 45p in June 1994.

News of a joint venture with Microsoft to provide information services for Windows 95 sent the shares sky-rocketing to a high of 354p, making them the best performers in the FT-SE All Share index last year.

Last November MAID raised $38.4m in a US listing on the Nasdaq market, where technology stocks enjoy a strong following and a higher rating among investors.

Mr Wagner remains unhappy with the reception he received in the UK. "We have something of tremendous value which is recognised in the US, but I'm not sure that is so in the UK, where we are still seen as a bit of an upstart."