Johannesburg, South Africa (Aug. 4, 2003) Sage plc, the United Kingdom parent of United States-based Best Software, has increased its lead in the bidding for Softline Ltd., the South African parent of North American business software companies, AccountMate and BusinessVision.

Sage submitted a firm bid of 2.0 South African Rand, and Softline has scheduled a September 8 shareholders meeting to consider all offers. Other suitors are a group of internal Softline managers, which have bid 1.35 Rand, and Exact Software -- the Dutch-based parent of U.S.-based Exact North America, formerly called Macola -- which in consortium with Softline shareholder Ivan Ferrer offered 1.45 Rand.

A final firm offer by the Exact-Ferrer consortium is pending due diligence by that group and, according to a South African news report, Softline's independent committee evaluating the takeover bids would "do everything possible to procure promptly a competitive formal offer" by the Exact-Ferrer group.

How any deal would affect the U.S. business software market remains unclear. As reported earlier by CPAWeb, Best Software chief executive Ron Verni said Softline's North American operations are not a driving force in Sage's bid, and Exact North America has not publicly commented on the deal. Exact, Best and Softline all have reseller channels that include accountants and technology practices affiliated with accounting firms.

The bidding has positively impacted Softline stock, which trades on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. The stock traded at 1.88 Rand last week and, except for one glitch, has steadily risen from 1.17 Rand when the internal management bid was announced in mid-April.

-- John M. Covaleski

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