Harbinger Corp., an Atlanta-based developer of electronic commerce software and services, said it will more than double its budget for electronic commerce initiatives, targeting areas such as research and development, sales, and marketing.
C. Tycho Howle, chairman and chief executive officer of Harbinger, said last week that his company will add $3 million to its fourth-quarter budget and $25 million in 2000. The increased spending will address the window of opportunity he said is open for business-to-business e-commerce technology.
Mr. Howle said large banks and corporations are preparing to launch major e-commerce initiatives as year-2000 worries diminish. Harbinger's additional investments will ensure its ability to meet this demand, he said, and the spending would also distinguish his company from the score of e-commerce upstarts that have attracted much of the market's attention.
"We have to make sure that when someone looks to business-to-business electronic commerce, Harbinger is on the list," Mr. Howle said.
"We want to get our share of mind," he added. "There is a lot of noise in the market from 'dot-com' companies that have little revenues but a lot of mind share."
Harbinger was started in 1983. Its on-line software and services for business predate the Internet, letting companies electronically send and receive business documents such as purchase orders, invoices, shipment notices, and payment information. More than 40,000 businesses -- including the largest 20 banks in terms of assets and 49 of the Fortune 50 companies -- use Harbinger technology.
The spending announcement caused Harbinger's stock to drop 20% last week, to $16 at Friday midday. The additional investments will reduce the company's net income in the short term. For instance, it now expects a fourth-quarter net profit of 7 cents a share, down from a previous estimate of 12 cents, according to First Call.
"Some investors do not feel comfortable and decided to leave us," Mr. Howle said, "but we can't and won't run the business on short-term considerations."
Harbinger's stock has struggled in recent years as revenues failed to meet expectations. For instance, in the third quarter of 1998, the company missed its $37 million revenue forecast by $2 million. Its shares were trading then in the $5 range.
Apart from modest year-2000 concerns that have beleaguered many technology vendors, Harbinger had business problems associated with integrating several acquisitions, most notably the 1997 purchase of Premenos Corp., a provider of Internet-based electronic data interchange software.
Since then Harbinger has eliminated redundant products, cut its work force by 10%, written off $6 million of outstanding balances due, and taken a $20 million restructuring charge (in the third quarter of 1998).
Mr. Howle said the company has addressed its in-house issues. Though Harbinger's earnings forecast has been reduced, it is raising its revenue goal for 2000, to $195 million, compared with Wall Street's expectation of $175 million to $185 million.
"We wanted to make sure we got our house in order," he said. "Now I think we are in good shape."