SPARK and AIS end GlobalNet battle

Early stage technology investor, NewMedia SPARK’s (SPARK) bid to acquire all of the outstanding shares of struggling international financial portal GlobalNetFinancial has finally come to an end. Following an ongoing battle with Milan-listed technology group, AISoftware (AIS), it looks like SPARK is finally about to claim victory in the bid for GlobalNet.

AIS has decided not to pursue a further bid for GlobalNet and will abide by its existing agreement to tender its 12.9 per cent shares to SPARK in the AIM and Nasdaq-listed company for 45 cents a share in cash. AISoftware had looked it was going to renege on this agreement.

Following AIS’ decision to stick with the agreement, no legal action will be pursued. SPARK and AIS have now decided to explore ways in which the two companies could co-operate and pursue potential joint investments.

An area of particular interest for SPARK is AIS’s venture capital subsidiary, Infusion, which plans to demerge and IPO before year-end.

Infusion was launched in May last year to invest in advanced technology companies focused on creating and delivering contents and services via the Internet. The venture currently has seven companies in its portfolio, including its 12.9 per cent share in GlobalNet.

Francesco Gardin said of the agreement: “We have decided not to make a further bid for GlobalNet but instead to pursue our goals of expanding AIS’s international presence and increasing the value of Infusion, our venture capital subsidiary, in anticipation of its planned de-merger and IPO, through the exploration of potential opportunities to work together with SPARK.”

SPARK originally bid for GlobalNet in June when it agreed an all-paper deal with GlobalNet, for a value of 55 cents a share – see evcj July/August, page 16. When SPARK later reduced its offer from 55 cents a share in paper to 36 cents a share in cash, Francesco Gardin, president of AIS, emerged as a counter-bidder for GlobalNet with a paper offer for the company at 55 cents a share, trumping Spark’s agreed 36 cents a share cash bid.

Joel Plasco of SPARK could not see Gardin’s motives for acquiring GlobalNet, saying that AIS is a software business that has no interests in the assets that it would have acquired from GlobalNet. He added that Gardin had even suggested that upon acquisition of the company, that he would dispose of its stake in Synaptic Systems Limited, provider of financial services product data, a company that SPARK has plans to expand.

Through the acquisition, SPARK hopes to improve its own net asset value with access to a new portfolio of investments, which include a five per cent stake in SPARK itself. Other assets that are of particular value to SPARK is a 24 per cent shareholding in the online financial services company EO, a 30 per cent stake in Synaptic Systems Limited and a 49 per cent holding in online share dealing platform, StockAcademy. The investment portfolio would also compliment another company that SPARK has its eye on the German VC and broker, Sputz, which SPARK has recently made a controversial bid for – see VC news this issue.