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US Web/CKS buy makes $14bn monster

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See, there's still money in designing websites. US Web/CKS Corp is selling itself to Whittman-Hart, a Chicago-based e-business consultancy, for $5.88bn, a hefty 35 per cent premium on Friday's closing price.

The merged entity will command a market cap of $14bn and will employ more than 8000 professionals in 70+ offices in 13 countries worldwide. It's a stock-only transaction, of course. But that doesn't make it any less real - without the support of the investment community, deals like this would not be a goer.

Designing websites and making them work is essentially what US Web/CKS does. It wraps around this a clutch of marketing and consultancy services. So that makes it a multi-billion dollar internet play. About Whittman-Hart we know next to nothing, except from what we gleaned from its Web site.

But how can two companies, collectively turning over about $600m a year, be worth $14bn? You've heard the net 'shovel makers make more money than the dotcom companies' argument: this is used to justify sky-high valuations for the likes of Cisco and Autonomy Corporation.

However, US Web/CKS and - we think - Whittman-Hart, don't fall so neatly into this category. They are professional services firms - with an internet (or integrated digital delivery model) spin, but labour-intensive professional services firms, nonetheless. ®

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