Is another iSoft plc chapter about to be written?

John Wayne starred in The Man from Utah (1934) playing John Weston, a young drifter who thwarts the robbery of a small town bank thus preserving its existence.

In a strange, time-shifted parallel world, iSoft plc’s non-fictional but identically named Chairman has been more or less living that same plot line with the company over the last year.

Although it is doubtful the bonus monies paid out to the previous Chief Executive, Mr Whiston, on revenue subsequently restated (very downward) will ever be returned there is a decent chance Mr Weston will rescue iSoft from the huge cash hole it was recklessly and silently plunged into. On the other hand, one analyst rates the probability of a bankruptcy at 25%.

All may be revealed when the company announces interim results this Monday 11 December. The numbers will be interesting enough, particularly the top line and cash flow; but it is the unsubstantiated story, cited officially by Businessweek late today but broken unofficially (zero proof, see) by the FT’s Alphaville this morning, that Philips Medical Systems is in advanced talks with the firm that may add bite. It is conceivable that an announcement may come with the accounts.

In terms of potential fit, the idea of iSoft and Philips is a runner. Philips lost one channel for its relatively limited health care IT business when GE bought IDX in January 2006: GE promptly dropped the Stentor (a Philips company) imaging solution IDX had until then been offering.

Your scribe spent some time with GE Medical Systems finance and can attest that there is an incentive for Philips to join arch-rival GE in being capable of offering a comprehensive healthcare software solution (read: as in iSoft) alongside their formidable hardware line-up. Were you a potential client, which would you prefer - a bits and pieces or a single all-in-one solution vendor?

I leave you to your weekend with the trivia that, in The Man from Utah, viewers were treated to the unexpected spectacle of the Duke singing contentedly and strumming a ukulele. It would be sweet music for shareholders to see something similar from Mr Weston on Monday. Truth, after all, is stranger than fiction.

If this is a real deal, though, the Devil will be in the terms.

NB: The writer is financially interested in iSoft plc

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