Check printer John H. Harland Co., seeking to diversify its business, is buying its second data base marketing software company in just over two years.

The Atlanta-based company said it has signed a definitive agreement to buy Okra Marketing Corp. for $25 million in cash.

Okra, based in Tampa, Fla., caters to large banks. Its customers include NationsBank Corp. and Banc One Corp.

The acquisition, which is expected to close later this week, is part of Harland's effort to expand beyond its core business.

The company ranks as the second-largest check printer, behind Deluxe Corp. But as electronic payment initiatives begin to eat into the number of checks written in the United States, demand for check printing should shrink in the coming years.

Victoria P. Weyand, vice president at Harland, said the banking industry's move toward more electronic payments was not a specific driver of the Okra deal, but she allowed that Harland wants to "lessen our dependency on checks."

Harland makes loan automation and compliance software for banks, and entered the data base marketing field with its 1994 purchase of Marketing Profiles Inc.

Robert J. Amman, Harland's president and chief executive, said Okra is "the No. 2 player" in its niche, behind Marketing Profiles.

Okra, which has 135 employees, had about $14 million in revenues last year, Ms. Weyand said, but she added that there is potential for "significant growth."

Okra's predictive software is used by banks to develop customer profitability models, which serve as the basis for bank marketing programs.

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