SkillSoft Corp. has reached a definitive agreement with Books24x7 to acquire the Web-based supplier of IT materials in a deal worth approximately $32.4 million. The transaction, which consists of 80% stock and 20% cash, is expected to be completed by the end of SkillSoft's fiscal year, which ends January 31, 2002.

Based in Nashua, N.H., SkillSoft is a provider of e-learning products for corporations that cover various business areas such as management and customer service. It entered the IT field earlier this fall, and the Books24x7 acquisition will significantly add to SkillSoft's IT offerings. Books24x7 provides online access to more than 1,700 IT and business reference books, journals and research reports from 65 publishers, including Harvard Business School Press, McGraw-Hill and John Wiley.

A spokesperson for Books24x7 said the acquisition will help "scale the business" by becoming part of a larger company with a well-established corporate sales force.

After the acquisition is completed, John Nine, currently v-p of sales and marketing of SkillSoft, will oversee Books24x7 as general manager. Books24x7 president David Parkinson and Michael Iacobucci, CFO, will leave the company after a brief transition period, but all other Books24x7 employees are expected to remain and the company will stay based in Norwood, Mass.

SkillSoft has grown steadily since its launch in 1998. In the fiscal year ended January 31, 2001, it had sales of $19 million and a net loss of $22 million. For the first half of fiscal '02, sales were $17.9 million and its loss was $6.7 million, and the company expects to post its first quarterly profit in the current period.