IBM to pay AT&T $1.4B for Sterling Commerce

Acquisition strengthens Big Blue’s middleware offerings

IBM Corp. has agreed to buy business-to-business e-commerce software developer and AT&T Inc. subsidiary Sterling Commerce Inc. for $1.4 billion.

Sterling’s B2B capabilities are a good match for its own middleware products, IBM officials said May 24. Acquisition of the Dublin, Ohio-based Sterling will “give IBM new tools to help clients build dynamic business networks that connect partners, suppliers and clients and deliver a consistent customer experience across channels,” said Craig Hayman, IBM WebSphere general manager, in a written statement. "The fact that much of this can be done in the cloud will make it compelling to large numbers of our customers.”

Sterling has been aggressive in developing and implementing how its users can communicate, including its new Sterling Commerce Mobile Applications for the Apple iPhone.

“Mobile applications are becoming an integral part of how businesses simplify and enhance how their employees, customers, partners, and suppliers access and exchange business information,” Sterling said on its Web site.

More than 18,000 customers worldwide use Sterling’s software offerings, enabling more than a billion business interactions annually, IBM said. The company “sees these interactions growing dramatically due to the proliferation of electronic business transactions.”

AT&T acquired Sterling in 2005 in the same transaction in which it merged with SBC Communications Inc. SBC had acquired Sterling in 2000.

The companies expect the transaction to close in the second half of 2010, with 2,500 Sterling employees slated to become part of the WebSphere division of IBM's Software Group.

IBM, of Armonk, N.Y., ranks No. 18 on Washington Technology’s 2009 Top 100 list.

About the Author

Sami Lais is a special contributor to Washington Technology.

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