Business software provider Sage Software Inc. unveiled the acquisition of Intuit Inc.'s Master Builder, an accounting application for midmarket construction companies, as well as its acquisition of contracting application provider Contract Anywhere Inc., based in Savannah, Ga.

"We're incredibly excited about this," said Sage chief executive Ron Verni, who announced the deals at Insights 2006, the company's annual business partner conference . "These 5,000 customers [from Master Builder] were, quite frankly, giving us a hard time. So, like we always do, we decided to buy it. It was an opportunity to offer a solution that fits," he said.

The terms of the acquisitions were not disclosed, though Verni noted that the products would be available for Sage partners by the expected close of the acquisition (sometime in the next month), as will a new Peachtree product -- Peachtree Quantum.

All three products are expected to fill gaps in Sage offerings between starter products, such as Peachtree First, and enterprise-level applications, such as Timberline, Sage's construction enterprise resource planning offering.

Some Quantum features highlighted at the conference include the ability to handle up to 10 users, an increase from five in other Peachtree products; an interactive dashboard with drill-down features; and export capabilities for budgets and other reports to Excel.

Some other points of interest Verni focused on during his keynote were an increase in Sage's customer base -- up to 5 million worldwide and 2.5 million in North America; awareness of the Sage brand, which had switched from the name Best Software last year; and the creation of more loyal customers who will act as referrals to generate sales.

Verni stressed that he would like to see more interest in CRM.com, the online customer relationship management offering from Sage, as well as partners offering as many products as possible, allowing customers to go to one place for the full suite of Sage applications. And though the common desktop has been talked about for the past couple of years, Verni said that the implementation of the new user interface has been slow coming to all Sage products.

"Customers told us they want a consistent [user interface]," Verni said. "Many have heard us speak of this for last two years -- our speed needs to increase here."Sage, the North American unit of global software provider Sage Group Plc, also announced that its six-month revenues rose 6 percent, to $297.2 million, for the period ending March 31, over the same period of a year ago. Meanwhile its U.K.-based parent posted an 18 percent rise in revenue, to $795.5 million, compared to the year-ago period.

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