After a relatively quiet 1996, Fiserv Inc. appears to be storming back into the acquisition game.

Last week, the Milwaukee-based company announced the purchase of Administar Communications, a laser printing and mail fulfillment business. A few weeks earlier, Fiserv announced it was acquiring BHC Financial Corp. for roughly $200 million.

Since its formation in 1984, Fiserv has averaged about five acquisitions per year. Last year, which featured only two, qualified as a "quiet" one, according to Fiserv chairman George D. Dalton. He said two of the company's acquisition bids in 1996 were rejected, but this year already is looking more active.

"I think the best we ever did was eight" acquisitions in one year, said Mr. Dalton, whose company should have about $900 million in annual revenues when the Administar deal is completed.

Fiserv's annual growth of about 18% is achieved largely through acquisitions, said F. Mark D'Annolfo, analyst at Adams Harkness & Hill, Boston.

He said that "bothers" him because "I usually like to see some more internal growth."

Administar was acquired from Anthem Inc., an Indianapolis-based insurance and health management firm. The company and its 250 employees will be folded into Fiserv's NEC Card Services unit, which provides plastic card personalization and fulfillment services.

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