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SoftwareOne seen as takeover target after board shake-up, shares rise

By Oliver Hirt

ZURICH (Reuters) - Shares in SoftwareOne rose on Friday after a boardroom shake-up made the prospect of a bid for the Swiss IT service provider more likely, investors and analysts said.

On Thursday, founding shareholders Daniel von Stockar, Rene Gilli and B. Curti Holding, who hold 29% of SoftwareOne stock, won a vote to oust most of the existing board.

The three had laid the ground for a sale of SoftwareOne to U.S. investor Bain Capital last year before dropping it due to the board's resistance to the deal.

"I assume there'll be a takeover now," said Stephan Sola, manager of the Plutos Schweiz fund. "What's less clear is that it's in the interests of the minority shareholders."

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Bain's rejected non-binding offer for the firm was worth around 3 billion Swiss francs ($3.30 billion).

Shares in SoftwareOne rose as much as 5.7% on Friday, valuing it at 2.58 billion Swiss francs.

One top ten investor, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the firm was likely to attract prospective private equity and strategic investors.

"Financing for such transactions has become easier in recent months and costs have fallen," the investor said. "This means potential buyers can offer more than Bain recently offered."

After the vote, von Stockar said he wanted to take stock of the firm by mid-year and then decide how to proceed.

Taking the company private or another transaction was not the priority, he said, while adding, "maybe there will be offers, maybe there won't."

Marcus Baeumer, an analyst at Luzerner Kantonalbank, echoed the view that a new board made it more likely the firm would go private.

Bain is no longer looking at SoftwareOne as an investment opportunity though, according to a person familiar with the matter. A spokesperson for the U.S. company declined to comment.

With more than 9,000 employees, SoftwareOne helps companiesto buy and manage software from other providers such asMicrosoft, SAP and Adobe.

($1 = 0.9086 Swiss francs)

(Reporting by Oliver Hirt; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)