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SkillSoft PLC (Nasdaq: SKIL), a leading provider of comprehensive multi-modal e-Learning content and software products for business and information technology (IT) professionals, announced today that it had reached a settlement with National Education Training Group, Inc. (NETg) and its parent company Thomson Learning, Inc., pursuant to which SkillSoft and Thomson/NETg have agreed to end their five-year long litigation in which NETg alleged that SkillSoft and certain of SkillSoft's executives who were former employees of NETg had taken alleged NETg trade secrets. The agreement entered into by the parties also settles a patent infringement claim brought by NETg against SkillSoft in 2001.
Under the terms of the settlement agreement, SkillSoft will pay NETg $22 million in July 2003 and $22 million in July 2004. SkillSoft has also agreed not to make certain specific modifications to its information technology courses for a limited period of time. In exchange, SkillSoft and the employees named in the trade secret suit and affiliated defendants, have received a complete release from any liability based on or arising from the alleged use of any alleged NETg intellectual property.
"This settlement agreement allows SkillSoft to move forward without the continued disruption and uncertainty that accompanies this type of litigation," said SkillSoft Chief Executive Officer and President Chuck Moran. Moran emphasized that SkillSoft and the employees named in the litigation continue to deny any wrongdoing, but that the company determined that it was in the best interests of SkillSoft, its shareholders and its customers to put the litigation, the cost of the cases, the threat of an unpredictable jury trial, potentially significant claimed damages, and the prospect of possible injunctive relief, to rest once and for all. "The settlement allows the company to redirect the attention, energy and financial resources expended on the litigation to producing and delivering to our customers what we think are the best technology-based e-Learning solutions available today," said Moran.
As a result of the settlement and related matters and the GoTrain acquisition, SkillSoft is changing its earnings expectations for this fiscal year. The company's prior target was for a loss of $(0.22) to $(0.23) per basic and diluted share. The primary effect of the settlement will be a one-time charge in the second quarter and amortization expense with respect to the settlement, as well as a reduction in expected levels of interest income due to lower cash balances after making the settlement payment. The company will also have the benefit of a reduction in its general and administrative expense due to the elimination of planned future costs of litigating the case. Finally, SkillSoft has included the amortization expense of the acquired GoTrain assets in the revised target. The net effect of all of these items is that the company currently expects that its net loss for fiscal 2004 will be between $(0.66) to $(0.67) per basic and diluted share.
The company's outlook excludes the potential negative impact of the resolution of any other litigation matters, as well as the potential impact of any future acquisitions, including potential non-recurring acquisition related expenses and the amortization of any purchased intangibles and deferred compensation charges resulting from an acquisition transaction.
The company currently anticipates that its cash position at the end of fiscal 2004 (January 31, 2004), assuming our normal level of receivables DSOs, will be between $50 million and $55 million. This estimate also assumes no borrowings are outstanding under the company's $25 million line of credit.
SkillSoft is a leading global provider of comprehensive, multi-modal e-learning content and software products for business and information technology professionals. Multi-modal learning (MML) solutions offer powerful tools to support and enhance the speed and effectiveness of both formal and informal learning processes. MML solutions integrate SkillSoft's in-depth courseware, learning management platform technology and support services to meet customers' learning needs.
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