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May 13, 2015

Salesforce and Sage partnership spurs M&A rumours

Software firms want to talk products, but analysts want to talk Wall Street.


Sage and Salesforce are partnering in a targeted push against the small and medium business market, as rumours emerge of a potential investment between the two software firms.

Under the deal Sage will its launch bookkeeping software Life onto the Salesforce1 platform, for use by small businesses putting their IT operations into the cloud.

Chief executives from both companies spoke to the press in an unprecedented fireside chat at San Francisco, prompting speculation among analysts because of past rumours in Silicon Valley that Salesforce is fielding unsolicited acquisition offers.

"I’m excited about the opportunity this partnership creates for our customers," said Marc Benioff, chairman and CEO at Salesforce."Together, Sage and Salesforce are empowering fast growing companies to run their businesses on the world’s #1 enterprise cloud platform."

Stephen Kelly, CEO of Sage, added: "Together with Salesforce, Sage is shaping the future of small business. Small business software no longer has to represent different systems or layers of complexity – it’ll be simple, collaborative, and real time."

Though the chat was chiefly a product launch for the companies, industry analysts wondered whether Benioff was pondering an investment in Sage, partly to protect itself from further acquisition rumours.

Denis Pombriant, managing principle at Beagle Research Group, wrote in a blog: "The speculation was that [Salesforce] was figuring out how to deal with an unsolicited offer, but all along I have felt that the signals were not very strong and that a Sage deal made more sense.

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"If Salesforce were to invest in a piece of Sage, it would complicate the calculations of its valuation and could tip the balance against acquisition. I suppose you could view this as a form of poison pill."

In another development in London, Sage also launched Impact, an online accountancy hub of cloud tools for the profession that is heavily customisable.

Jennifer Warawa, VP of product marketing for accountants at Sage, said: "Accountants and bookkeepers don’t need more tools – they need the right tools. They want a platform that adapts to their needs and delivers the right information when and where they need it."

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