On June 6, iSoftStone announced plans to make the company a wholly owned subsidiary of China Asset Management Co., Ltdand delist from the U.S. stock market. This is the fifth IT services (ITS) provider headquartered in China to announce plans to go private in the past 9 months. The others were Yucheng Technology, AsiaInfo-Linkage, Camelot and Pactera.
Why are these firms going private? Despite ambitious global growth plans, Chinese ITS providers have largely failed to articulate a compelling value proposition to U.S. and European clients. By focusing mainly on low-end application development services they have instead primarily competed with much bigger and much more experienced Indian providers – but without the ability to offer lower costs. In fact, the average profitability of Chinese ITS providerswent down from 10-15% to less than 5% over the past 2 years, when most large Indian firms are in the 15-25% range. Going private will give these5companies a chance to transform their current model relieved from the quarterly pressure to meet Wall Street analyst expectations.
Existing and potential customers of these ITS providers may have concerns seeing these providers going private, particularly regarding overall company transparency, including financial strength and corporate governance. I believe clients will have to balance their concerns against the potential benefits that going private may deliver, which include:
While not the top priority, more than a quarter of respondents to Forrester’s Forrsights Services Survey, Q2 2012, stated they were looking to implement or expand their use of offshore resources. Motivation for new offshore geographies is driven by a range of factors, from seeking new sources of talent to risk mitigation, cost savings, innovation, and local market knowledge and access.
My recently published report analyzes the attractiveness of the three largest economies in Latin America as outsourcing locations: Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico. Latin America presents an attractive location, particularly for US and Canadian companies. However there is wide variation in the suitability between different countries. Some of the high-level findings of the research include:
Brazil has clear strengths with its size, scale, wealth of IT skills, and array of local service providers such as BRQ, Ci&T, and Stefanini. Most service providers are focused on the domestic market, however, and don’t have the same export focus as providers in other countries. In addition, overly complex legislative and bureaucratic hurdles, as well as, to some extent, language issues, continue to prevent it from reaching its potential. Ci&T however is one exception, providing a model for Agile development and entrepreneurship.