Harbinger Plans Business-to-Business E-Commerce Portal

Atlanta-based electronic data interchange (EDI) vendor Harbinger Corporation (Nasdaq: HRC) announced plans yesterday for a March launch for harbinger.net, a business to business e-commerce portal that will enable Internet communication between trading partners no matter what business system, data format or communications protocol either partner may be using.

Marketing VP Ron Rosenthal said the new site will also include free e-commerce information, such as news, events, forums and data on standards. That information is also currently available on harbinger.com. The transaction service and its enabling software, harbinger.net Pipeline, hasn’t been priced yet.

Electronic Data Interchange:An E-Commerce Enabler

EDI has traditionally been used for transmitting purchase orders and other forms from one company to another. It lowers operating costs by lessening the need for human involvement in business processes. The communications are usually carried over so-called Value-Added Networks (VANs). However, communication over the Internet is far less costly, and Harbinger is determined to be the leading provider of IP connectivity services for business e-commerce.

“We may already be there,” said Rosenthal, noting that Harbinger has implemented around 100 extranets that are private trading networks. He wasn’t able to estimate the total number of trading partners currently using the extranets. He did say that Harbinger has 40,000 customers, and Harbinger’s goal is to migrate as many of them from VAN to IP connectivity as quickly as possible. Harbinger predicts that more than 50% of its network traffic will move to IP by the end of the year.

Investment Plans & Financial News

Rosenthal said Harbinger has invested more than $50 million (US$) in Internet technology since 1994. In a letter to shareholders, chairman and CEO C. Tycho Howle said Harbinger plans to invest about 25% of its profitability, or approximately $7 million, into developing and building awareness of harbinger.net. The company also plans to invest approximately $15 million in an “operational excellence” program that includes integration of its ERP, customer asset management and global network systems.

Howle said Harbinger expects to earn about 30 cents a share this year, less than the 40 cents many analysts had projected. It expects revenues to grow by 25-30%. Major competitors in Harbinger’s market space include Sterling Commerce, GE Information Systems and IBM.

In October, Harbinger laid off 110 employees, or 10% of its work force. Its stock fell to 4-1/2, its 52-week low at the time (current 52-week range: 3-1/2 to 27-9/16). The stock has been trading under 10.0 since August, and barely moved after yesterday’s harbinger.net announcement.

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