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SBI acquires struggling IT company

In the midst of a shrinking market for Internet consulting services, the professional services company agrees to acquire Lante.

In the midst of a shrinking market for Internet consulting services, professional services company SBI and Co. agreed to acquire Lante, an ailing IT consultancy.

SBI said last week that it will make a cash tender offer of $1.10 per share for all publicly held outstanding shares of Lante, which closed at half that amount last week. Chicago-based Lante, founded in 1984, also announced that it's reducing staff by 22 percent, or 45 people, in order to continue operating until the acquisition is complete.

SBI consults companies on business process and technology for improving back-office operations, inventory control, marketing and sales.

The acquisition, which is expected to close before October, was the second such deal for Salt Lake City-based SBI in one week. On Wednesday, the privately held company announced an agreement to acquire the assets of Internet consulting firm Scient, which had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

That deal calls for SBI to hire some of Scient's employees and provide $4.9 million in financing, pending completion of the asset acquisition. Scient, which flourished as a provider of Internet know-how to dot-coms, saw its business dry up with the collapse of Internet-driven economic bubble. The company's shares have traded below $1 since June, despite a 1-for-20 reverse stock split.

Even as the dot-coms crumbled, Lante anticipated its business would be buoyed by the growing number of business-to-business e-commerce start-ups, and it positioned itself as a specialist for e-marketplaces. When e-marketplaces proved just as vulnerable as dot-coms and slack in IT spending by businesses grew, the company's fortunes began to dwindle.

Both Scient and Lante said they intend to continue delivering services to their clients without interruption until the acquisitions are complete.