Johannesburg, South Africa (June 27, 2003) -- Sage Group plc, the England-based parent of Best Software, has joined a bidding war for Softline Ltd., the South African parent of the developers of business software applications BusinessVision, AccountMate and Datafaction.
Softline's Web site reports that Sage sent its board a letter expressing interest in acquiring Softline for 1.8 South African Rand per share, which compares to a 1.45 Rand per share offer proposed two weeks earlier by minority Softline shareholder Ivan Ferrer and Exact Software, the Dutch-based parent of Exact North America, the software vendor formerly known as Macola. Softline is also the subject of a 1.30 Rand per share bid by some internal managers.
In U.S. dollars, the Sage offer is about $90.4 million versus about $72.9 million from Ferrer-Exact and about $66 million from the internal managers. The Ferrer-Exact group already owns about 16.7 percent of Softline's 392 million shares. Ferrer, who individually owns 1.5 percent of Softline's shares, is the founder of Pastel Software, a low-cost, small business accounting software developer Softline acquired in 1999.
Softline stock, which trades on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, was selling for 1.6 Rand per share Wednesday. It has been steadily rising from 1.17 Rand per share when the internal managers announced their offer in April.
Softline shareholders are scheduled to meet July 21 to discuss the internal management offer. The Ferrer-Exact group said that pending due diligence, it planned to formally make its offer at the meeting.
While neither Best nor Softline officials were available for comment, a Sage deal would apparently make better sense from a North American operations standpoint. AccountMate software could conceivably be placed in Best's middle market division and give that group its first product with open source code, while BusinessVision could fit in Best's Small Business group, since it is marketed heavily to companies outgrowing the functionality in entry-level software, such as Best's Small Business flagship line Peachtree.
Exact North America focuses primarily on manufacturing/ distribution end users, while Softline's North American products lines span multiple industries.
-- John M. Covaleski
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