Phoenix Planning and Evaluation Ltd., an influential consultancy in smart cards and electronic benefits transfer systems, has been acquired by the government services firm Maximus Inc. of McLean, Va.

Phoenix, which does most of its work where government programs and smart cards meet, retains its identity and its Rockville, Md., headquarters, said president Gary Glickman.

As part of Maximus, a 3,000-employee company expecting $250 million of revenue this year, Phoenix can expect additional investment in its business and "can expand more quickly," Mr. Glickman said.

Phoenix has 15 employees and has worked for 35 states on benefits transfer and electronic toll collections, among other projects. Besides Mr. Glickman, the firm's most prominent name is Dan A. Cunningham, who cut back to part-time this year when he became president of the Smart Card Industry Association.

Mr. Glickman said he anticipates doing more systems work, rather than being involved just on the planning end.

In Philadelphia last week to address the American Bankers Association's bank card conference, Mr. Glickman argued that exponential growth in electronic commerce will spur a long-awaited explosion in smart cards. Because they "solve security and authentication problems," they are "a natural way to pay on the Internet."

Elaborating in an interview, he said, "Smart cards can be as big as automated teller machines. ATMs took people out of branches, this takes people out of ATMs." If a "smart bank doesn't take advantage of it," he warned, "somebody else will."

Maximus, which was formed in 1975 and went public in June 1997, announced the definitive agreement Aug. 31 to exchange 254,545 of its New York Stock Exchange-traded shares, valued at about $7 million, for privately held Phoenix. The target company is projecting $4 million of revenue in its current fiscal year, up 50%.

Maximus also said it would pay stock worth $32 million for Carrera Consulting Group of Sacramento, Calif., a $17 million firm that implements PeopleSoft enterprise software for government agencies.

Maximus contracts are typically in the health and human services field. It has been active as an outsource manager of welfare-to-work programs, for example.

It expects both Phoenix and Carrera to be immediately accretive to earnings. "Both have excellent reputations for providing government clients with quality service" and enhance Maximus' high-tech service capabilities, said Maximus chief executive officer David V. Mastran.

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