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Watson gets his float under way

By Aimee McClinchy

Friday 24th March 2000

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Watson's Technology Web entrepreneur Eric Watson is preparing to bundle a group of technology assets to list in a single vehicle on the Australian Stock Exchange.

Blue Star Business Solutions has hired corporate heavyweight Greg Kay to work as a consultant "on a number of projects," which others said included tidying up the assets for the float.

Mr Kay, who acquired a high profile for his drastic restructuring of listed company Wrightsons and a controversial stint at Coalcorp (now Solid Energy), is well-known as a change manager.

The bare bones of the new entity will be Mr Watson's share of the Blue Star Business Solutions group, including companies such as Wang, Cogent, Hart Candy, UBIX, Auldhouse Computer Training and BSG Finance, highly-placed sources said.

Mr Watson, who bought back 60% of the Blue Star Business Solutions group last year, was overseas and unavailable for comment.

Through his company Cullen Investments, Mr Watson has shareholdings in a web of different companies, most of which focus on e-commerce and technology. It is unclear which of them may be involved.

The Watson-linked companies admit they work closely together and leverage off each other but said there was no "master plan."

Business Solutions chief executive Anthony Howard said the suggested scenario was not correct but would not comment further.

Advantage chairman Evan Christian said: "Each company is looking at mergers and consolidation and some will end up in a listed position in New Zealand and Australia by the end of the year, but there is no plan to bolt them together as one big float.

"Everyone's realising they have to move. We will bundle together different business to take advantages as they come, but anything else will unfold as it arises," Mr Christian said.

Pacific Retail Group chairman Maurice Kidd said there were no firm plans. "We may look at consolidating some of our technology investments but all I will say is maybe."

Advantage chief executive Greg Cross said the company was still investigating its own listing on the Australian Stock Exchange. The company had begun talking with investment banks and brokers but Mr Cross said further Australian acquisitions to come were an integral part of the listing.

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