A major merger of a Finnish and "Pan Baltic" IT company is to be announced in Helsinki on Friday. On the Baltic side, there is a short list of "the usual suspects", so here are the hottest rumors:
1) It's Latvian IT Alise (with 10 employees in Estonia, I guess it is Pan-Baltic) and TietoEnator, the Finnish-Swedish IT company. With IT Alise, TietoEnator would broaden its potential customer base in Latvia from it's narrow-focus, bank-card system oriented ("Chipcards in Borneo 'R Us) Latvian subsidiary and pick up a company that has "done" Lattelekom, LMT, and is installing a big m-f of an Oracle eBusiness Suite system at the biggest corporate m-f of them all in Latvia, Latvenergo, the national energy utility. The word is out that the companies have "dated" regularly in the past, but not gone home with each other. One never knows...
2) It's MicroLink and God-knows-who in Finland (some company with more k-s and ä-s than you want to see in your life). MicroLink is truly pan-Baltic, it is a mid-sized m-f in its own right in the market (Exigen now has a bigger one ....turnover, watch'cha think, since it attached Dati over the summer). For MicroLink this would fulfill the prophecy of one of its founders, Alan Martinsson, that Baltic IT companies cannot stand alone for long. Alan has, unless I am hallucinating this, gone off to some kind of venture capital/investment banking outfit, and might be involved in doing the deal. Don't know, haven't called the man. But it would make sense. Also, the Estonians, who started MicroLink, would probably feel better selling it to their Finnish cousins, who, BTW, are pretty much at the top of the world IT list in terms of smarts, useage, etc.
3)It's one of the Lithuanian upstarts. Varos Group with its retail and access control solutions sounds a little to narrow, unless we are talking a peer-to-peer type of deal, meeting their obscure Finnish clone, Kurrattperkelääkeskustakoskenkorvakatu Oy ...oy...oy... or whatever. Sonex, which I don't follow, is still tiptoeing out of the hardware business. Mebiuss, just recently came into Latvia, had its obligatory scandals (who doesn't, IT is the # 2 customer for this state outfit) with the Procurement Supervision Board (IUB in Latvian) but has yet to build up a really solid reputation.
So I don't really know, but I'll put my five santims on the IT Alise deal.
Then there are the loonie rumors (although not entirely). The one I heard today from some top folks in the Latvian IT business is that Lattelekom is buying MicroLink. Sorta fits with the Estos mid-range vision of their baby growing up to marry a mid-sized IT & T company. It also fits with the idea that Lattelekom may split into a) a network operator (getting some pan-Baltic assets in the data networks area from MicroLink), b) a service provider (consumer, broadband, cable TV, all that sh**t) and c) a business service provider (heavy into outsourcing your entire IT&T needs, putting in all from the network to the PCs to the rent-an-applications services, just sign here on the SLA...). The latter is going to take a lot of IT competance and weigh. MicroLink has some of it. Rumor also has it that Verdi, the unborn fetus of an IT subsidiary that Lattelekom has been carrying for years is losing folks to international biggies like Accenture. Buying MicroLink might make Lattelekom a more exciting place to work (well, with other excitements like "who's getting reorganized this month?")
One also mustn't forget that, sooner or later, even people like Indulis Emsis and Ainars Slesers will figure out that you can either sell Lattelekom to TeliaSonera, or wait to sell it to DeutscheT-Sonera in 2008 or whatever, but there ain't gonna be too many choices beyond that, and certainly no mad bidding war even for this prize. And don't call out the riot squad to stop the people stampeding off Air Lebanon to bid for that fourth third mobile licence the second time around, while you are at it...
Friday will tell all. Can't make it myself, gotta go to Stockholm with my youngest son that evening on family matters. Otherwise, if it were just a question of spending the day in Helsinki, I would dog-leg it with Finnair to Tukholma as they call it.