Acxiom Corp. took another step last week in the consolidation of the data base technology business by agreeing to acquire May & Speh Inc.

The companies, with a combined $700 million of sales, help retailing, financial services, and insurance companies make targeted offers to customers. Blending them will produce an information giant that can rival the major credit bureaus, market observers said.

Conway, Ark.-based Acxiom is known for providing data that credit card issuers use to solicit new customers. Its clients include leaders in the field such as the largest, Citibank.

May & Speh of Downers Grove, Ill., is known for mathematical modeling tools, primarily for retailers. Sears, Roebuck and Co. is its largest client.

Acxiom, which in March reported fiscal-year revenue of $458 million, will be the surviving company.

The merger "will provide an exciting new solution for several industries," said chairman Charles D. Morgan. "The increased critical mass of our data centers and technology infrastructures will enhance our delivery and execution of both direct marketing and information-technology outsourcing services."

The deal, which is expected to close in August, calls for Acxiom to exchange 0.80 share of common stock for each May & Speh share.

The larger Acxiom can be a more powerful resource for banks, said Carla N. Cooper, an analyst at Robert W. Baird & Co. As banks begin to offer more financial products to consumers, "Acxiom and May & Speh have a real opportunity to help them integrate operational data," she said.

Acxiom can help banks integrate information from many data bases to present a single picture of a given customer's total relationship, Ms. Cooper said. "Banks have to be able to look at all of a customer's accounts at once to make a good (credit) decision," she added.

Acxiom's competition includes the three big credit bureaus-Experian, Equifax, and Trans Union-and any company that does its data mining in- house.

Last year Trans Union Corp. of Chicago formed an operating unit with May & Speh to do risk modeling. A spokesman for Trans Union said it does not expect the Acxiom merger to change its relationship with May & Speh.

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