The Investment column: Infobank

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The Independent Online
THERE IS also much expectation in the shares of Infobank International Holdings, the software company. Since August the company has grown in value from pounds 38m to pounds 232m, helped not least by a 25 per cent rise in its share price yesterday.

The slightest noise from Infobank sends the shares soaring - yesterday's rise followed a software supply deal with General Electric Company, even though software supply is a non-core activity, and GEC is an existing customer.

The scramble for the shares is partly explained by Infobank's frequent appearance on some Internet tip sheets. Having Nasdaq-listed Ariba and Commerce One, capitalised at $10bn and $7bn respectively, as comparators helps.

But there are other reasons Infobank remains attractive. Its core product, InTrade, is the only piece of software which can manage supplier relationship online in more than one currency. Its attractiveness has helped Infobank clinch fresh deals with the South African government and British Telecom since September.

Now Compaq, a partner in Europe, wants to install InTrade in its offices in New York and Tokyo. That paves the way for entering the US and attacking Ariba head-on. It has appointed Lehman Brothers, the US investment bank, to advise.

Meanwhile, Infobank is thought to be close to disposing of the software reselling business, leaving it focused on InTrade alone. Graham Sadd, chief executive, says he expects the pace of newsflow to accelerate hereon as Infobank unveils further partnerships.

Analysts expect Infobank to post losses of around pounds 7.5m for the next two years. The risk is that a rival, such as SAP, the German ERP giant, muscles in on the action. But Infobank has a window of opportunity and is wasting no time exploiting it. Given Infobank's unique position in fast-growing market, the shares still look attractive.

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