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Stepping back from the turmoil, iSKY delays its IPO indefinitely; Growth plan shifts to less all-out; Area companies


Joining a number of companies delaying postponing initial public offerings of stock in a turbulent market, Columbia-based iSKY announced yesterday that it is delaying indefinitely an offering that had been planned to generate about $60 million.

"We decided [Thursday] night, in consultation with our bankers and investors, that the instability and volatility were likely to persist," said Richard T. Hebert, president and chief executive officer of the company, which provides outsourced customer service. "When it's clear we've got sustained stability, we'll be back."

Hebert said the company had planned to use the proceeds of the IPO in part for acquisitions, and might slow, but not change its growth plans.

"We'll still be aggressive, but not quite as aggressive," he said.

In the customer service business since 1984, iSKY was called Sky Alland until the fall, when it increased its Internet capabilities to go along with its traditional phone service. The company has five centers around the country, where customer service representatives can respond by phone, fax, e-mail or live Web chat.

Hebert described iSKY as "a hybrid between customer care and data mining." Using transaction records and other data on each customer, it is able to make them "personalized" offers of goods or services likely to appeal to them.

Major clients include BMW, Volkswagen and American Express. The company has about 150 employees at its Columbia headquarters and more than 1,000 in its service centers, including about 200 in its center in Laurel.

The company filed for its IPO in February. In March, it said it would offer 5 million shares at $11 to $13 per share. Earlier this week, in a revised filing reflecting market conditions, it said it would sell 4 million shares at $9 to $10. This was quickly followed by the announcement that the IPO was being postponed.

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