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Global Exchange fuses with Haht in B2B buy

The business-to-business e-commerce software maker says it will pick up data synchronization specialist Haht Commerce in a $30 million deal.

Business-to-business e-commerce software maker Global Exchange Services said Thursday that it is buying data synchronization specialist Haht Commerce in a $30 million deal.

Through the acquisition, Global Exchange aims to broaden its reach in providing so-called product information management and data synchronization software. Data synchronization applications automate the process by which suppliers, manufacturers and retailers share information relevant to issues such as inventory status and product design.

Global Exchange, which operates a hosted e-commerce network responsible for an estimated 1 billion transactions annually, is a spinoff company of General Electric with a background in traditional business-to-business, or B2B, applications including electronic data interchange (EDI), another format for trading business data.

Company executives said the firm hopes to address some of the major problems found among retailers trying to exchange information by integrating Haht's data-sharing technology into future versions of its own e-commerce software. Bobby Patrick, chief marketing officer at Global Exchange, said in a phone interview that Haht's applications would allow his company's customers to more easily transfer information found in disparate formats, such as multiple enterprise resource planning (ERP) software systems.

"Different companies store and manage data in different ways, making it hard for them to communicate effectively," Patrick said. "With Haht's information management skills, it will make it easier for our users to catalog, translate and synchronize information, regardless of these various formats."

Patrick said that Global Exchange's long-term goal is to incorporate the two companies' software into a single package that provides an architecture for processing and sharing data from the time it is first entered into a system until it is archived, but he indicated that the firm would continue to market Haht's current standalone applications for now.

Industry analysts called the move positive for both companies, as Haht's behind-the-firewall cataloging technology may prove more attractive to larger customers than Global Exchange's hosted e-commerce business model. Kara Romanow, analyst with Boston-based AMR Research, said rumors of an acquisition also may have been negatively affecting Haht's ability to generate new sales.

"Retailers are mandating that their suppliers synchronize data, which has left these vendors scrambling to address their data (incompatibility) problems," Romanow said. "Larger companies with multiple ERP, sales and product systems are looking for behind-the-firewall products such as Haht's to deal with this, so it's a plus for Global Exchange to move in that direction.

The analyst said a potential boon for companies competing in the space is ongoing efforts at massive chain retailers--such as Wal-Mart Stores and Lowe's, a Global Exchange customer--to demand that suppliers synchronize their data. Romanow said the market for data synchronization tools could grow to reach $40 billion as retailers push suppliers to adopt more effective data sharing methods. Data synchronization technology will also serve as an important underpinning for emerging plans around radio frequency identification (RFID) technology, she said.

Some of these projects, including Wal-Mart's, include requirements for suppliers to meet data sharing regulations passed by industry standards projects such as the Uniform Code Council's UCCNet group. Global Exchange representatives cited addressing UCCNet's standards as another reason behind the Haht acquisition.

Under the terms of the deal, Global Exchange is purchasing all the existing shares of Haht's stock for approximately $30 million in cash and shares of GXS Holdings, the buyer's parent company. Company representatives said they expect the deal to close before the end of next month.