Microsoft wants FAST


Software giant Microsoft has bid for Norwegian search technology company Fast Search & Transfer (FAST).
The Norwegian IT company announced the news in a notification to the Oslo stock exchange on Tuesday morning.
"This is a sad day, but FAST will be in good hands and I believe the company will blossom better with Microsoft than on its own," board member Robert Keith told financial web site E24. "We are very glad that a company of Microsoft's quality and size wants to buy FAST," Keith said.
The board has recommended the Microsoft offer and 37 percent of shareholders have already approved, with the usual reservation that a higher bid is not forthcoming. The offer is based on 90 percent shareholder acceptance.
The offer values FAST at NOK 6.6 billion (USD 1.235 billion), a premium of 42 percent compared to its closing price on January 4.
The offer of NOK 19 per share is not a historically high rate, but in the past year in particular the company has been marked by write-downs and staff cuts that have lowered its share price.
"The price has been a negotiating question and the most we could get under the circumstances. We believe the shareholders have gotten a good price, but Microsoft has not paid too much if FAST develops the way we believe it will," Keith said.
The company's two major shareholders, investment company Orkla and management firm Hermes, both support the Microsoft offer. The purchase is expected to be completed in the second quarter of 2008.
The company was established in 1997 and had its roots in the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim. The company is headed by John Lervik, former technology director and CEO from 2001.
FAST has about 500 employees in about 20 countries.