IBM and AT&T announced today that IBM is acquiring Sterling Commerce from AT&T for the price of $1.4 billion. Sterling Commerce provides B2B solutions for 80% of the Fortune 500.

"Businesses today are operating in a highly competitive global environment in which lines between actions taking place within and outside an organization’s four walls are blurring," says Craig Hayman, general manager, WebSphere, IBM. "This acquisition will give IBM new tools to help clients build dynamic business networks that connect partners, suppliers and clients and deliver a consistent customer experience across channels. In addition, the fact that much of this can be done in the cloud will make it compelling to large numbers of our customers."

Sterling Commerce enables over a billion business interactions a year for clients in the financial services, retail, manufacturing, communications and distribution industries. IBM thinks such interactions will grow dramatically with  electronic business transactions, from banks exchanging transaction data and manufacturers sourcing raw materials electronically, to retailers automating stock replenishment and managing orders online.

"Sterling Commerce is a solid business that complements IBM’s suite of products and services.  Our focus is on developing and providing a world-class portfolio of networking-based solutions and services, including network- and cloud-based data storage and managed hosting, application and computing services," said Ray Wilkins, CEO, AT&T Diversified Businesses. "And AT&T remains committed to its strategic alliance with IBM, our largest customer, to provide a unified set of telecommunications and computing services to multinational corporations across the globe."

"The broad global reach and additional capabilities IBM offers make this acquisition great news for our customers and partners," said Sterling Commerce CEO Bob Irwin. "The combination of IBM’s products, services and skills with the Sterling Commerce B2B integration and cross-channel capabilities resulting from this acquisition is unparalleled."

IBM will continue supporting Sterling Commerce clients, while enhancing its technologies, the company says. About 2,500 employees from Sterling Commerce will be integrated into IBM’s WebSphere organization.

The acquisition is expected to be completed in the second half of this year, and must get by regulatory agencies.

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