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Ihs Inc. Business Information, Profile, and History

15 Inverness Way East

Company Perspectives

For nearly 50 years, IHS has helped customers harness the power of information to improve their business results. This is the essence of IHS today, and it is what makes us unique compared with all of our competitors. While much has changed over that period, this is the common denominator that unifies our organization--the promise to provide our customers with the technical information, tools, and operational and advisory services necessary to help them make critical business decisions, maximize their core business processes and improve productivity. And we will continue expanding our offerings further to include knowledge-based solutions and industry insight that provide strategic benefit to our customers around the world.

History of Ihs Inc.

IHS Inc. is a global supplier of technical information, decision support tools, and related services to several industries. Originally using microfilm to allow compact storage of technical catalogs that once took up reams of paper, IHS was early to switch to electronic delivery and has embraced the Internet since the mid-1990s. The company has expanded its product line from aerospace offerings to regulatory information and the defense, automotive, construction, electronics, and energy industries. Most of its revenues are based on subscriptions and the company boasts very high renewal rates. IHS is a New York Stock Exchange publicly traded company.


IHS Inc. traces its origins back to the late 1950s when it was launched by Richard O'Brien, a product editor for one of Rogers Publishing Company's trade magazines. Readers were complaining of the difficulty of getting up-to-date product information from vendors, so O'Brien led an effort to compile and index product catalogs for dissemination on the compact, and relatively inexpensive, medium of microfilm. This work was carried out by the Technical Services Division established by Rogers in 1959.

The division was spun off as Information Handling Services (IHS) in 1961 as Cahners acquired Rogers. Early users included Martin-Marietta and Convair Astronautics. IHS soon was producing a Military Specifications File for government contractors. It eventually became known as Information Handling Services Inc. (IHS). The company's early business would be supplying microfilm catalogs of aerospace engineering product information. The company's first product was called the Vendor Specs Microfilm File, or VSMF. IHS eventually was owned by international holding company TBG Inc., which was itself controlled by the Thyssen-Bornemisza family of Thyssen AG fame.

Edward M. "Ted" Lee led the company in the 1970s. He was credited with growing its business while developing a reputation as a good employer. Under his leadership, revenues rose to $32 million in 1977. The company got a new president in 1981, Michael J. Timbers, who formerly had led a government procurement agency and marketing research consultancy.

The space needed to store vast technical product catalogs that once took up reams would be shrunk even more as new electronic formats were developed. Responding to demand from its engineer customers, who were enthusiastic early personal computer users, IHS began producing CD-ROMs in 1985. IHS was investing $10 million over a three-year period to convert to the new technology, according to Business Week. This was a colossal task that required scanning more than ten million printed pages.

The company dominated the standards and regulatory publishing field with sales of $70 million a year in the mid-1980s. By 1988, the company Information Handling Services had revenues of $120 million; the larger IHS Group employed 1,100 people, more than half of them at its Colorado headquarters. IHS was making 13 million frames of microfilm products a year, making it the largest commercial producer in the world.

At the time of its 30th anniversary, IHS, which exported to more than 80 countries, was building a new $5 million, 64,000-square-foot headquarters building in Englewood, Colorado. A holding company, IHS Group, was established in 1999 to oversee new subsidiaries.

Acquisitive Decade: 1990-2000

IHS was a voracious acquirer in the 1990s. The decade started with the purchase of the Haystack product line, which was bought from Ziff-Davis Technical Information Company. Haystack's defense parts database complemented IHS's existing MasterNET CD-ROMs. Eighteen months later, in September 1991, IHS sold Predicasts Inc., a Cleveland-based supplier of business periodical databases, to Ziff Communications.

IHS Group revenues exceeded $191 million in 1991. Information Handling Services Inc. accounted for about 75 percent of the total. The group then had 1,600 employees.

Information Handling Services Inc. expanded in the southern hemisphere by acquiring Australia's Hinton Information Services Pty. Ltd. in 1993. Hinton was based in Sydney and specialized in engineering and medical information. Among a handful of other acquisitions in 1993, IHS bought Newton, Massachusetts-based Cahners Technical Information Service (CTIS) from Reed Publishing (USA) Inc. CTIS produced Computer Aided Product Selection (CAPS) databases for electrical engineers. IHS was developing its CAD capabilities to make it easier for product designers to retrieve and incorporate graphical component information through its new CAPSCAD product.

Edwards Publishing Company, which specialized in publishing electronics connectors catalogs, was acquired toward the end of 1994. Another purchase, Global Info Centre Hong Kong Ltd., brought IHS into Southeast Asia and China. By this time, international sales were accounting for more than 30 percent of IHS Group revenues.

Online in 1995

IHS bought Portland's Creative Multimedia Inc. for $30 million in 1995. Creative made multimedia products such as CD-ROMs. The real focus of IHS's future, however, would be online development.

The company took its products onto the Internet in 1995. The web allowed the company to incorporate changes into its databases as they were reported and streamlined the delivery of information to customers. IHS was using search technology developed by CADIS, Inc. of Boulder, Colorado. IHS Group sales were about $257 million in 1995.

IHS Group stepped into the oil and gas information industry with the 1996 acquisition of Petroconsultants S.A. Petroconsultants was based in Geneva, Switzerland and had annual revenues of $40 million and 250 employees. It lacked CD-ROM and Internet products when acquired. IHS sold off hospital software supplier Health Care System during the year, while buying South African trade and reference press The Communications Group and U.S. government-oriented electronic database publisher RBP Associates.

Several of the company's databases were combined into the web-based Engineering Resource Center in 1997. IHS claimed the world's largest collection of commercial standards, regulatory standards, and electronic components catalogs.

The group was still adding to its holdings in 1997. It bought the United Kingdom's ESDU International PLC, an engineering design guide publisher founded in 1940. It also added Mexico's Documenta, S.A. de C.V. By this time, IHS was active in 90 countries. Other deals included the trade of Creative Multimedia and other consideration for Dataware Technologies Inc.'s services business, and the purchase of Medical Data International.

IHS bought online sourcing service Industry.net in late 1997. It had once been part of bankrupt Nets Inc. and had an estimated 450,000 users. Another end of the year acquisition was that of Houston-based energy publisher Petroleum Information/Dwights L.L.C., whose origins dated back to the 1960s. This gave IHS Group a total of 3,150 employees.

The company's microfilm production was finally shut down in 1998. By this time, it was accounting for just 5 percent of revenues, which totaled $415 million.

New Structure, New Ventures for the New Millennium

In 1999, IHS was expanding its product line to include regulatory information. IHS expanded into another new market by acquiring CenBASE/Materials Information Service from CenTOR Software Corporation. At the end of the year, IHS sold off its handful of trade magazine titles to PennWell of Tulsa, Oklahoma. In November 2000, the company sold West Group its environmental and human resources businesses while its financial division was acquired by Wolters Kluwer a couple of months later.

The company formed a joint venture in 2000 to publish standards for the British Standards Institution. IHS had relationships with more than 200 standards bodies for engineering alone.

Robert R. Carpenter, a technology services industry veteran, became IHS Group CEO in February 2001. One of his priorities for the company was expanding online offerings. In November 2001, the company launched a worldwide hosting service. It was assisting the U.S. Air Force and Navy in bringing their maintenance manuals onto the Internet. Group revenues were $400 million in 2001, half from outside the United States. IHS had 60,000 end-users in more than 90 countries.

The company continued to expand its scope through alliances. In 2003, it became the official English language distributor for Russia's Gosstandart standards organization. It also was teaming with Inventory Locator Service, L.L.C. in an integrated supply chain management service. IHS spent more than $70 million on other acquisitions in 2004, including two parts information specialists, Houston's Intermat Inc., and Virginia Beach's USA Information Systems Inc. In September, IHS acquired Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CREA) for $31 million. Noted economics author Daniel Yergin, who had founded CREA, remained with the firm as chairman.

Public in 2005

IHS Inc., the Delaware corporation formed in 1994, underwent an initial public offering (IPO) on the New York Stock Exchange on November 11, 2005 (it had originally been scheduled for May). By this time, energy-related products were accounting for about half of sales, and the stock was billed as a play on the booming oil and gas market. The offering valued the company at nearly $1 billion; it did not raise funds for the company, which already had plenty of cash on its books, but allowed leading shareholder TBG Holdings to liquidate part of its holdings. TBG retained 62 percent of equity and 88 percent of voting rights after the IPO.

Revenues were $476 million in 2005. Its flagship VSMF product had expanded to three million pages of listings from more than 25,000 manufacturers. The 2005 acquisition of the United Kingdom's American Technical Publishers Ltd. extended IHS's reach in Europe and Africa.

Principal Divisions

Aerospace; Defense; Automotive; Construction; Electronics; Energy.

Principal Competitors

The McGraw-Hill Companies; Reed Elsevier Group; Thomson Corporation.


  • Key Dates
  • 1959 Rogers Publishing Company forms a unit to supply microfilm catalogs of aerospace engineering product information.
  • 1961 Technical Services Division is spun off as Information Handling Services (IHS).
  • 1976 The company builds a 133,000-square-foot headquarters in Englewood, Colorado.
  • 1977 Revenues are $32 million.
  • 1985 Sales are $70 million; the company begins to produce CD-ROMs.
  • 1988 IHS makes three million feet of microfilm.
  • 1989 The IHS Group holding company is formed.
  • 1990 A new world headquarters opens in Colorado.
  • 1991 Revenues exceed $191 million.
  • 1994 IHS Inc. is incorporated in Delaware.
  • 1995 Online versions of catalogs are made available; group revenues are about $257 million.
  • 1997 Several databases are combined into an online Engineering Resource Center for the IHS Specs & Standards service.
  • 1998 Microfilm production ends.
  • 2005 IHS goes public on the New York Stock Exchange.

Additional topics

Company HistorySoftware & Computer Systems

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