iTouch opens world for Holliday

Wireless applications company Holliday Group's international acquisition has immediately opened up five major markets and a promising partnership with Vodafone UK.

Wireless applications company Holliday Group’s international acquisition has immediately opened up five major markets and a promising partnership with Vodafone UK.

As well as making millionaires of its majority-owner founders, the £7.47 million cash and shares deal with mobile media and messaging developer iTouch - based on a three-year revenue target scheme - sees Christchurch become iTouch’s centre of excellence for mobile Palm development.

Founded by Phil and Judy Holliday, a couple often credited as the first New Zealanders to recognise the importance of wireless application protocol (WAP), Holliday is now expected to double its revenue and already 30-strong staff within the next 12 months.

“I think it will be bloody hard graft,” Holliday business development manager Dave Ffowcs Williams says. “And then it [sales] will hockey stick.”

From March, Holliday’s products will be sold by London stock exchange-listed iTouch, 50% backed by Tony O’Reilly-controlled Independent News And Media, first into Britain and Ireland, then Australia, South Africa, and the mass Israeli market centred in Tel Aviv.

Holliday’s sale follows a chance look at an iTouch newspaper ad by Williams nearly a year ago.

Holliday was at the time pursuing a strategy of expansion by talking to local companies about partnerships or a partial sale, but figured iTouch, which until recently had focused on the consumer market, would be interested in its mobile office applications.

It also had the international reach local companies did not, including relationships with all the major telcos in Australia, and particularly Vodafone UK.

Holliday had to wait for iTouch to raise capital and list on the London Stock Exchange in August 2000 before iTouch, now with a market capitalisation of £152 million, made Holliday Group its first acquisition.

iTouch has links to media empires in every market it is in, including Wilson & Horton in New Zealand, and delivers content and services to mobile customers.

It has a burgeoning business market with its wireless SMS service, with over 220 customers in South Africa.

Now Holliday’s 40-strong, more complex applications, which integrate customers’ back-end legacy systems into the wireless networks using Holliday’s own Jade-built communication server, will be sold alongside this.

iTouch chairman Ivan Fallon pointed out Holliday’s trials with Vodafone New Zealand’s GPRS technology and development across multiple network technologies – GSM, CDPD and CDMA – as key strategies.

Holliday’s products focus on three areas – service and engineering, sales and CRM, and freight – with users including Mainland and Mainfreight.

This week it announced IT services company Infinity Group’s field engineers were using its mobile applications to manage job calls, saving an hour's work each day.

The Christchurch team will focus on core technology development while staff in each country work on customisation.

Other partners in the British market include trunked radio-network partner Tait, with which Holliday has worked locally for 10 years.

Holliday Group received an initial payment of £714,000 in cash as well as shares in iTouch, with the rest of the purchase price reliant on meeting targets.

Senior management have all received three-year binding contracts.

“We now have the support and internal infrastructure necessary to effectively grow the business internationally,” Phil Holliday says.

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