NCR chief says investment good for Atlanta

NCR’s top executive says a huge investment from Blackstone is a high-profile validation of the company’s strategy – and also good news for its adopted home of metro Atlanta.

“When the largest private equity company in the world makes a nearly $1 billion investment, they may know something,” CEO Bill Nuti said in a phone interview Friday with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“No one bets a billion dollars on a loser. And these are smart guys.”

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The company, which last week broke ground on a new headquarters near Georgia Tech in Atlanta, expects that Blackstone’s decision to purchase roughly 17 percent of the company will let NCR cut costs while continuing to expand into new technologies.

Blackstone’s $820 million purchase of NCR stock was announced Thursday after months of speculation that there might be an outright purchase of the company. Blackstone also gets two seats on NCR’s board.

The cash injection will mean growth, said Nuti, who led the company’s 2009 move from Ohio to its current home offices in Gwinnett County.

“The reason why the city of Atlanta and the state of Georgia and the metro area should care is because NCR has found a partner in Blackstone that is completely in sync with our vision.”

The company has about 29,000 employees. Shares of NCR have lost about half their value since peaking in 2007, although company officials note that the stock drop partly reflects that year’s spin-off of Teradata.

Company stock is down more than 9 percent in 2015.

The Blackstone deal followed a “comprehensive review of strategic alternatives” by NCR’s board, the company said. That review spawned speculation that the entire company might be sold.

NCR last year had revenue of $6.6 billion and operating profit of $353 million. The company makes automatic teller machines, kiosks and “point-of-sale devices,” but has run into some trouble as customers move to payment with phones.

So Nuti has been leading NCR through a transition to the new technologies. While not surrendering its hardware business, NCR now aims to grow much more rapidly in software, he said.

“We will be a growth-oriented company, but with higher growth in software than in hardware and services. That is the real key to our continued success, that we will have software growing at a faster rate than hardware and services.

“You have higher margins and you have better cash flow.”

Blackstone’s investment, Nuti said, “is intrinsic to that transformation.”

NCR said it is already on track to achieve about $70 million in savings this year and expects to cut $105 million next year. Officials have declined to discuss any job cuts, but have said they are committed to growing employment in metro Atlanta to 3,600.

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