The acquisition would be the second largest in SAP’s nearly 40-year history, and comes after the departure in February of chief executive Leo Apotheker, who was replaced by co-chief executives Bill McDermott and Jim Hagemann Snabe.
SAP’s main rival, Oracle Corp, was the first major software maker to aggressively pursue acquisitions and has spent more than $42bn to buy about 60 companies.
“SAP finally learned that they should take some clues from Oracle’s playbook. They finally woke up,” said Trip Chowdhry, an analyst with Global Equities Research. “They are late, but late is better than never.”
California-based Sybase sells programmes that make it easy for workers to access business software via smartphones and other mobile devices. SAP already uses the technology to let customers access its applications when they are on the road.
“We want to make sure SAP solutions can be accessed from all leading mobile devices. The acquisition of Sybase will allow us and our partners to do just that,” SAP’s Snabe said.
SAP has agreed to pay $65 per share in cash for Sybase, the world’s fourth biggest provider of database software. That represents a 56 per cent premium to Sybase’s Tuesday closing price on the New York Stock Exchange. Sybase also sells a powerful database that large companies, such as banks, use to store sensitive information.