Prescient, viaLink Merge for Streamlined Supply Chain

Analysts say the merged entity looks likely to provide wide-ranging point-of-sale and supply-chain solutions for big retail and consumer goods customers.

In one of the first IT mergers of 2005, supply-chain vendor Prescient Systems Inc. has been combined with The viaLink Company, a retail and e-commerce technology specialist, to form a new, publicly traded company called PAI (Prescient Applied Intelligence).

PAI officials on Monday announced the completion of the stock-for-stock transaction. The new entity will be headquartered in West Chester, Pa., but also will keep an office in Dallas, according to a statement from the company.

Jane Hoffer, former president and CEO at Prescient Systems, will hold the same title at PAI. Bob Noes, previously CEO at viaLink, will become a member of PAIs board of directors.

Noes, who formerly worked at EDS (Electronic Data Systems Corp.), joined viaLink as president in 1999 and was promoted to CEO in August 2002.

Prescient Systems has been increasing its focus on supply-chain demand planning. viaLink, for its part, has been concentrating on data synchronization and scan-based trading.

As some analysts see it, the merged company will make it possible to present a converged solution covering aspects of the retail and CP (consumer products) supply chain ranging from front-end POS (point of sale) to communications with back-end trade exchanges.

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"While technically a merger, [the deal] is more like an acquisition, with Prescients management team and technology team retaining control of the combined company," said Kara Romanow, an analyst at AMR Research.

"The acquisition moves Prescient further away from the traditional supply-chain market and closer to providing a DDSN [demand-driven supply network] product that brings retailers and CP manufacturers together to collaborate on supply and demand," Romanow wrote in a recent AMR report.

viaLink also brings with it a large roster of blue-chip customers, including retailers/wholesalers such as Target, Safeway and ExxonMobile, along with product suppliers such as Keebler, Kraft, Sara Lee Bakery, Unilever and Wise Foods.

Starting Monday, PAI was listed for quotation on the OTCBB (Over the Counter Bulletin Board) under the trading symbol PPID. Under the merger agreement, one common share of PPID represents 20 common shares of the previous VLNK (viaLink) stock on the OTCBB exchange.

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