Checkfree Corp. announced Friday it has agreed to acquire Security APL Inc., a pioneering provider of investment services over the Internet.

Officials at the Columbus, Ohio-based electronic commerce firm said they have signed a definite agreement to acquire the Chicago company in a stock transaction worth approximately $50 million. The deal is expected to close by the end of next month, officials added.

Security APL, founded in 1978 as a developer of portfolio accounting software for investment managers, expanded into cyberspace in 1994.

It now offers investment-oriented information and services through the Internet's World Wide Web. The Internet site, called Pawws, allows investors to view their portfolios and initiate trades on-line.

Checkfree's move follows a similar acquisition last year by Intuit Corp., its archrival in the home banking business. The Mountain View, Calif.-based maker of Quicken personal finance software bought Galt Technologies, another leading provider of investment information over the Internet.

Company officials said the acquisition of Security APL expands Checkfree's electronic commerce offerings to banks and brokerage firms.

"We're taking the best content provider available to the investing public, adding the capability to complete investment reporting and transactions, and offering it as part of a total financial solution set," said Checkfree chairman Pete Kight.

In other news affecting bank technology stocks, Morgan Stanley & Co. analyst Mark Wolfenberger said Thursday that he has initiated coverage of Transaction Systems Architects Inc. with "strong buy" rating. The Omaha- based company's stock gained nearly 10% for the week.

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