Fast gains support for Opticom takeover bid

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Fast Search & Transfer, the Norwegian technology company, looks set to resolve a boardroom dispute over its ownership by acquiring its biggest shareholder, Opticom.

Fast, which develops search software for enterprises, websites and multimedia publishers, launched the takeover bid to settle growing unease about the fellow Norwegian company’s 27 per cent stake in Fast.

Fast on Tuesday told the Oslo Börs shareholders representing 73 per cent of Opticon’s outstanding shares had accepted the offer of 5.25 Fast shares for each Opticom share.

Fast itself last month bought 9.7 per cent of Opticom’s shares and on December 13 made the offer, which is conditional on Fast receiving 90 per cent of Opticom.

Opticom owns technology to make microchips with plastic that promised to be faster and use less energy but after striking production problems the Fast stake became its main asset. Opticom’s share price began to grow rapidly in November and had more than tripled by December 12.

Fast plans to spin off Opticon’s chip technology business, Thin Film Electronics.

The deal would resolve uncertainty for Fast, which was thought to be a potential takeover target. Growth in demand for its technology caused its revenues to rise 67 per cent for the nine months to September and its share price has traded at more than NKr20.00 ($2.94) during most of the past six months, compared to NKr13.00 to 15.00 in the first half of the year.

Opticom’s biggest shareholders, Robert Keith and Thomas Fussell, began in November to reduce their stake in Opticon, raising the prospect of uncertainty over Fast’s ownership and sparking division amongst Opticom’s shareholders.

Fast was established in 1998 and listed in 2001, but has recently gained attention as the web search market heated up, particularly after competitors Autonomy and Verity merged in November. At the same time interest has surged in desktop and multimedia search as the digital media industry grows.

Fast’s shares closed 3.6 per cent higher at NKr22.80 on Tuesday.

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