Representatives of the State Services Commission’s e-government unit say they are not fazed by the poor financial fortunes and impending major restructure of Baltimore Technologies, a supplier of both email security and public key infrastructure (PKI) services to its Secure Electronic Environment (See) project.
See is a crucial plank of the e-government initiative, protecting information passing among government agencies and potentially between agencies and members of the public.
Baltimore, headquartered in Dublin, Ireland, has seen its share value drop to between US55c and 62c from the $US10 level at the beginning of the year on the back of financial losses – though recently the share price has levelled out. It plans to delist from the Nasdaq exchange and split off its email security operations into a separate business unit, which another company may acquire in due course.
E-government unit spokesman Brendan Kelly that the unit already has an alternative supplier for the email protection side of See in Marshal Software with its MailMarshal product, alongside Baltimore’s Mailsweeper and Secretsweeper. “Other suppliers are queuing up to become See accredited,” says Kelly, though approval of those arrangements is “some months away”.
On the PKI side, where Baltimore technology is at the root of services provided by Baycorp’s security division, there are also “several viable suppliers” who could step into the breach if Baltimore ultimately failed, he says. Kelly believes, however, that since the purpose of splitting off the mail security unit is to allow Baltimore to concentrate on its “core activities” such as PKI, the latter side of the operation is likely to be strengthened rather than further weakened by the move.
Bill Tonkin, managing director of Scientific Software and Systems (SSS), which represents Baltimore on the mail security side in New Zealand and has the contract with the e-government unit, says the restructuring is unlikely to make any significant difference from his firm’s point of view. Until last year, the email unit was an independent company, Content Technologies, and took up office space in the same premises as Baltimore only two months ago.
Before Content Technologies was formed, the unit was part of a British company, Integralis — “we’re talking ancient history, before 1998”, says Tonkin. SSS has dealt with the unit in all its incarnations, so one more is unlikely to disrupt its relationship, he says.
There are rumours of a management buyout of the former Content Technologies unit, says Tonkin, but Baltimore paid about $2.4 billion, so any management team will have to have major financial backing.
In some ways the upcoming split is regrettable, because the products and services of the unified group fitted well together, Tonkin says. “They had the ‘who, what and where of security’: ‘who’ is PKI and digital certificates, ‘what’ was content management and ‘where’ is access control – appropriately www. Now it looks like one of the Ws will drop out.”