Johannesburg, South Africa (Aug. 19, 2003) -- Exact N.A. has dropped out of the bidding for Softline Ltd., South African parent of North American business software companies AccountMate and BusinessVision, further opening the door for rival bidder Sage plc, the England-based parent of Best Software.

Softline confirmed a report that Exact, which was bidding in consortium with Softline shareholder Ivan Ferrer, pulled out because it could not match Best's 2.0 Rand per share offer for Softline, which trades on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. The Netherlands-based Exact owns Exact North America, an Andover, Mass.-based business software company formerly known as Macola.

The only other bidder is a group of Softline managers, which bid 1.35 Rand. Softline's board has recommended that shareholders accept Sage's bid at a meeting scheduled for Sept. 8.

However, Softline also noted "The Ferrer/Exact consortium said it reserved the right to submit an offer in the event of the Sage bid being amended or failing."

How an acquisition would affect the North American business software market is unclear. Ron Verni, chief executive of Best Software, said Softline's North American operations are not driving Sage's bid, adding that "the real thrust of the deal is geographic extension by Sage into South Africa and Australia."

Softline's AccountMate and BusinessVision software products compete most directly with accounting software from Best's divisions serving the middle market and small businesses. Softline also owns Datafaction, a Los Angeles-based financial management software developer.

-- John M. Covaleski

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