GE Information Services (GEIS) is to open an e-commerce centre in Sydney to service customers in Australia and New Zealand.
Trading under the name ECXpress, the new centre is a joint venture between GEIS and a consortium including Indonesian IT and telecomms provider the Emtek Group and Australian businessmen John Singleton and Mark Carnegie.
According to John Simons, managing director of GEIS, the company's decision to partner with an Indonesian company to launch the Australian centre was due to a skills shortage amongst Australian players, caused by a focus on year 2000 projects.
However, it was very possible that GEIS could seek to acquire or team with Australian companies for future ventures, Simons said.
The centre is the latest in a series of similar operations GEIS has been opening across the Asia-Pacific region. So far it has opened centres in Singapore, the Philippines, Hong Kong, China and India.
Simons said GEIS will announce more initiatives, in conjunction with Emtek, in the Asia-Pacific region in coming months.
Rather than partnering with multinationals, GEIS chose to partner with smaller local and regional players, in order to support the company goal of "local focus, global reach".
Serious e-commerce players
Simons said GEIS is positioning the centre to compete with serious e-commerce players, including Telstra, AT&T and IBM.
"ECXpress represents a significant investment in, and commitment to, the Australian market. It will increase our personnel, providing [e-commerce] sales, support and consulting services by up to 50 per cent," Simons said.
The North Sydney centre is on target to open at the end of November 1998.
GEIS' existing customers will be offered the opportunity to swap to the new centre or to remain with GEIS.
Services offered will revolve around business-to-business transactions and will include scalable e-commerce solutions, consulting support and outsourcing of services including application hosting, and interconnection to GE's global network.
Music ordering venture the Australian Electronic Records Ordering System (AEROS), funded by Sony, EMI, BMG, Polygram and Warner, and previously with GEIS, plans to swap to ECXpress.
McDonald's, until recently a Telstra customer, plans to use the new centre to Internet-enable its EDI transactions.
Both AEROS and McDonald's are currently piloting services that ECXpress offers.
GEIS' clients in Australia also include Woolworths, Coles Myer, EAN Australia, Westpac, ANZ and NAB.