Microsoft bids $1.2B for Fast Search & Transfer

Microsoft Corp. has offered to buy enterprise search software company Fast Search & Transfer ASA for 6.6 billion Norwegian kroner ($1.2 billion U.S.), it said Tuesday.

The acquisition will bring Microsoft powerful high-end search technologies to complement its enterprise infrastructure offering, the company said.

Microsoft's recent efforts in enterprise search have been aimed at the other end of the market. In November, it introduced two new low-end enterprise search products, Search Server 2008 and Search Server Express 2008, both based on its SharePoint Server 2007 business productivity platform. It is pitching Search Server 2008 as a cheap entry into enterprise search, while the Express version is free for single installations.

By integrating FAST's products with SharePoint and drawing on its own worldwide network of partners, Microsoft hopes to bring FAST's products to a wider audience, it said Tuesday.

It is also counting on FAST's Norwegian research team to bolster its research efforts in Europe. Microsoft has laboratories in Cambridge, England, and in Copenhagen.

The directors of FAST, based in Oslo, have recommended that shareholders accept the offer, which represents a premium of 42% over the company's share price at close of business on Friday. The companies expect the deal to close in the second quarter, subject to customary closing conditions, including the approval of the holders of at least 90% of FAST's shares.

FAST's rivals in the market for specialized enterprise search tools include Google Inc., with its Search Appliance; French search company Exalead; and Autonomy Corp., which recently acquired Meridio and Zantaz.

Representatives of FAST could not immediately be reached for comment.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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