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Infonet Mulls Sale With Stock Off 83% From Last Year

March 23, 2001|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Infonet Services Corp., which sold $1 billion worth of stock 15 months ago only to see its shares tank, said Thursday that it hired two investment bankers to help it weigh alternatives that include a sale of the company.

The El Segundo-based provider of computer and data network services, owned by a host of international telecom giants, has seen its shares plunge 83% since hitting an all-time high of $33.69 last year.

The company went public in December 1999 at $21. In New York Stock Exchange trading Thursday, Infonet shares gained 67 cents to close at $5.74, putting it up nearly 15% for the year. Thursday's close gives the company a market value of $2.7 billion.

Infonet said some of its shareholders recently expressed interest in divesting their holdings and that it's working with UBS' UBS Warburg unit and Merrill Lynch & Co. on alternatives. The company's shareholders include KDD Corp. of Japan, Spain's Telefonica and Telia of Sweden.

Seven months ago, Infonet raised its profile significantly by making a $9-billion bid for a much larger European rival, Amsterdam-based Equant.

The deal never materialized, however, as Infonet's shares continued to slide amid the technology stock sell-off.

After losing $27 million last year on sales of $481.4 million, Infonet has posted four consecutive profitable quarters. Through the nine months ended Dec. 31, Infonet earned $18.4 million on sales of $472 million.

The company was founded in 1969 as a unit of El Segundo-based Computer Sciences Corp., one of the world's largest providers of information-technology consulting and outsourcing services.

Infonet's initial public offer was one of the largest ever for a Southland company.

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Bloomberg News was used in compiling this report.

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