In a move that allows Talis to concentrate on its growing semantic web business which has been its strategic focus in recent years, the company has divested its library automation unit to Capita Group, a large UK-based outsourcing company. Talis Information Limited, a business unit of Talis Group has been acquired by Capita Group, in a transaction valued at about $32 million dollars that closed on March 3, 2011. Capita Group ranks as one of the largest UK companies specializing in business process outsourcing and professional services.
Talis, based in Birmingham, England employs a workforce of 42 and provides its Alto ILS to about 109 public and academic libraries in the United Kingdom. Its library automation products have not been implemented in libraries outside the UK, but the company recently opened a subsidiary in the United States to develop and support products related to its semantic web technologies. See the Talis profile on Library Technology Guides.
Announcements stated the value of the transaction at £18.5 million, plus an additional amount up to £ 2.5 million depending on the unit's financial performance in the last quarter ending on March 31, 2011
Cobalt Corporate Finance provided support to Talis through the acquisition process, including evaluation of its business unit, negotiating with potential buyers, and managing the transaction through completion.
The acquisition only involves Talis Information Limited, the business unit of Talis Group devoted to its library automation products. The assets of this division include the Alto library management system, the Prism online catalog, as well as related modules dealing with income management, SMS messaging, mobile access, and decision support. The sale does not include the Talis Education division or Talis Platform, the company's semantic web and linked data interoperability framework.
Dave Errington, Talis CEO since June 2003 will remain with Talis Group, now focused on semantic Web and linked data technologies. The 43 personnel associated with Talis Information Group will shift to Capita; 40 employees remain with Talis Group. The agreement includes a license for Capita Group use the Talis brand within the United Kingdom.
Talis builds a business on Semantic Web technologies
In recent years, Talis had been structured to separate its business units. From a company organization perspective, Talis Group, the top-level holding company included portfolio companies Talis Information Limited, devoted to the library automation market, Talis Education, Ltd., involved with higher education, and Talis Systems, Ltd., involved with semantic Web applications, and Talis, Inc., subsidiary in the United States formed in October 2010. According to the Talis blog, this new subsidiary has contracted with the Government Printing Office to operate the PURL service for access to government documents through persistent links. Operationally, Talis included three business units, Talis Education, Talis Platform, and Talis Library. The separation of these business units allowed Talis to divest its legacy library automation activities and to retain semantic web business, which has been its strategic focus for the last few years.
As it exits the library-specific market, the flagship product for the company will be the Talis Platform, a semantic web environment which provides a generalized framework to support a variety of business applications, offered through software-as-a-service. The Talis Platform has been in development since 2007. The initial product based on the Talis Platform was Talis Aspire Campus Edition, an application targeted for higher educational institutions to help manage learning resources and teaching materials, providing services for linking and organizing content for students and instructors. It has also been adopted by a number of organizations outside the library industry, including the BBC and is the infrastructure that supports the UK government open data initiative (data.gov.uk).
The Talis Platform remains as a strategic asset of Talis Group. The new Prism 3 discovery layer for the Alto LMS, which shifts to Capita, relies on the Talis Platform. Capita and Talis have agreed to a multi-year managed service arrangement to support ongoing access to the API of the Talis Platform to support Prism3.
The proceeds from the sale of its library automation business will allow Talis to make additional investments to strengthen its semantic web activities.
Talis Background and History
Talis traces its origin to the Birmingham Libraries Co-operative Mechanisation Project, or BLCMP founded in 1969. BLCMP provided infrastructure and services that allowed its members initially to perform cooperative catalog production and eventually grew into a full-featured library automation system. The environment included a large shared bibliographic database to support cooperative cataloging for BLCMP member libraries. The BLCMP system grew over time with circulation introduced in 1980, an online catalog in 1985. In 1992 the Talis Alto LMS was introduced as the successor to the original BLCMP library management system.
In 1999 BLCMP converted into a for-profit company, and changed its name to Talis, after its flagship LMS product. BLCMP was a non-profit cooperative established 1969. Under BLCMP, complete ownership of the company was held by the trustees. The transition to a for-profit allowed for external investment, employee shareholder plans, and the ability to enter into partnerships, form joint ventures, or to create business units.
The Talis Education division was launched in June 2009 to develop technologies to integrate learning resources with campus learning environments.
Talis Engage, launched in October 2009, is a Web-based community information application to provide access to community information data, such as social organizations, clubs, local history, health information into a library management system.
The library automation market in the UK has grown increasingly challenging in recent years. Not only are the number of potential customers finite, but the number of libraries going to tender for new systems has been limited. In the last two years, the company saw only two sales of Talis Alto: the Torfaen County Borough Council, selected Talis Alto in 2009 and to Barnsley Library and Archives in 2010, replacing a SirsiDynix Dynix system.
Capta Group, originally founded in 1984, has grown to be a very large firm involved in providing business outsourcing services across many industries including central or local government, defense, education, financial services, transportation, health, insurance, and pensions. The company employs over 37,000 personnel, produces revenue of £2,744 million annually, with 2010 pre-tax profits of £364.2 million.