Sage eyes $1bn Aussie rival

Steve Dinneen
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SAGE is in the running to buy Australian accountancy software company MYOB (Mind Your Own Business) in an increasingly rare example of a UK-based firm attempting to take control of a major foreign asset.

It is understood Bain Capital and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR) have also placed final bids for the firm, which is expected to fetch more than $1bn (£610m).

Private equity firms Archer Capital and HarbourVest Partners, which bought MYOB for about £287m in 2008, are understood to have hired UBS to advise on the sale.

In the first quarter of last year the number of foreign firms bought by UK-based companies, and the amount spent on them, fell to their lowest level in more than 20 years.

The total outward investment for 2010 fell 75 per cent year-on-year to just £6.7bn.

In contrast, a number of multi-billion pound firms have been snapped up by foreign investors. Earlier this month Northumbrian Water was bought by Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing’s Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings for £2.4bn.

Last year Cadbury was taken over by US-based Kraft in an £11.9bn deal. And these are eclipsed by Telefonica’s £18bn deal for O2 in 2005. Sage, which has a market value of £3.4bn, is a supplier of business management software and related products and services, mostly for small and medium-sized companies.

It has grown through acquisition, typically moving into new markets by buying a local provider of software, and now has more than 6m customers in over 50 countries.

The Newcastle-based group has not struck any major deals in the last three years, choosing instead to pay down debt, but chief executive Guy Berruyer said in May that M&A was still part of its strategy.

Sage yesterday confirmed it is considering a potential acquisition but stressed there is no guarantee the bid will proceed. Sage shares dropped by just over one per cent.