SunGard Data Systems Inc. signed a letter of intent to buy Premier Solutions Ltd., a software company that in the distant past suffered serious losses and customer lawsuits.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The acquisition was scheduled to close today, pending shareholder and regulatory approval.

Premier Solutions, a subsidiary of Safeguard Scientific Inc., sells trust accounting systems-used by 21 banks-and asset management software.

Both Premier and Sungard, a rapidly growing information technology provider to banks and other financial services companies, are based in Wayne, Pa.

Premier Solutions gained notoriety in 1988 when BankAmerica Corp. wrote off an $80 million investment in the vendor's trust accounting software.

Donald W. Birdwell, president of Sungard's asset management systems, said he had no qualms about Premier's past. He said the company "is well positioned to be a leader in the global trust and investment management software business."

Sungard Data Systems is an "active acquirer" and the Premier move is "consistent with the company's growth strategy," said Raimundo C. Archibold, senior vice president at Gerard Klauer Mattison, a New York- based brokerage firm.

Premier also complements Sungard's purchase of National Computer Systems Inc.'s trust systems business last year, said Carla J. Newmeyer, analyst at Robert W. Baird & Co., Milwaukee.

G. A. "Jay" Mossman 3d, Premier's president and chief executive officer, said he will retire shortly after the acquisition is completed.

He was brought on board in 1991 to turn the company around. James E. Ashton 3d, executive vice president of business development at Premier Solutions, will assume the top post.

Shares of Sungard stock were trading at $44.75 midafternoon Thursday, up from $44.375 the previous Friday.

John H. Harland Co., Atlanta, disclosed its first quarter earnings per share will not meet Wall Street's expectations.

A consensus estimate of four analysts-published by First Call-was that the check printer would earn 33 cents per share. Harland officials said they would fall about 12 cents shy.

Victoria P. Weyand, vice president at the company, attributed the setback to its printing plant consolidation effort.

Harland, second in the check printing business to Deluxe Corp., plans to shutter 32 of its 40 printing facilities by next year.

Gary Craft, an analyst at Robertson Stephens & Co., San Francisco, said Harland is likely encountering a fate similar to that of Deluxe in its similar consolidation effort last year.

"It's not an issue of revenue," he said. "It's just a question of how quickly consolidation can take place."

Ms. Weyand said investors "will see this as a one-time thing-a short- term expense issue as opposed to a longer-term growth issue."

Harland's share price was at $24.625 Thursday afternoon, down 50 cents from Wednesday's close.

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