Johannesburg, South Africa (Sept. 24, 2003) -- Sage Group plc, the England-based parent of Best Software in the United States, has won the bidding war for Softline Ltd., the South African parent of the developers of North American business software applications BusinessVision, AccountMate and Datafaction.

Softline shareholders meeting in Johannesburg voted to accept Sage's offer of 2 Rand (28 cents U.S.) per share for a total value of 785 million Rand ($110 million U.S.). Sage's bid far exceeds separate bids from a group of Softline managers and from a group that included Exact Software, the Netherlands-based parent of Exact North America, the U.S. software company formerly known as Macola.

How Best -- whose Peachtree and MAS accounting software lines indirectly compete with BusinessVision and AccountMate -- will handle Softline remains unknown. Best Software chief executive Ron Verni several weeks ago said Sage's primary interest was in Softline's operations in other parts of the world and that the North American operations were not a driving force in the bid.

According to Softline, Sage plc chief executive Paul Walker said the deal "affords Sage the opportunity to extend our geographical presence into the Southern hemisphere." The Softline announcement further reports that Walker said he plans to "work closely" with Softline management in South Africa and the managing director of its Australian subsidiary, but he did not mention Softline's North American operations.

Softline's North American operations declined comment. The BusinessVision group plans to hold its partners conference in Toronto in the first week of October.

-- John M. Covaleski

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