The Sage Group will enter the credit card and check payment-processing field with the $323 million acquisition of Verus Financial Management Inc. from Financial Technology Ventures.Located in Nashville, Tenn., Verus specializes in payment processing for small and midsized businesses, with a customer base of 100,000-plus merchants in the United States. The all-cash deal will be completed within the next month, subject to regulatory approvals.

"Acquiring Verus expands our business management solutions into a new and growing market, where SMEs are showing clear demand for more automation of their business processes," said Sage chief executive Paul Walker. Sage plans to integrate Verus services into its existing accounting software, in an effort to eliminate the need for dual data entry and ensure data quality.

Verus' revenues are tied to services fees linked to processed sales transactions. Sage said that Verus will form the core of its North American Merchant Services Division, complementing Sage's existing North American Payroll Services. Intuit, Sage's biggest rival, already offers similar services.

Announcing the deal, Sage said that Verus (which has $24.6 million in assets) has grown rapidly after a series of acquisitions in 2002 and 2003. Revenue for 2005 was approximately $63 million, up 26 percent from 2004, with a profit of $21 million.

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