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Micro Focus bought by Canada's OpenText for $6b

Resting place of Novell – and one-time home to SUSE – finds new life in the Great White North

Canadian software biz OpenText has bought UK tech stalwart Micro Focus in a deal worth around $6 billion.

In a statement, OpenText, the provider of a data integration platform, said that Micro Focus brought in $2.7 billion trailing 12-month revenue for the period ended April 30.

OpenText CEO and CTO Mark Barrenechea said the deal would make OpenText one of the world's largest software and cloud businesses.

"Customers of OpenText and Micro Focus will benefit from a partner that can even more effectively help them accelerate their digital transformation efforts by unlocking the full value of their information assets and core systems," he said.

Micro Focus customers include Kellogg, Airbus, and Roche Diagnostics, while OpenText counts Bell Canada, Solarisbank, and Bumble Bee Foods.

"Micro Focus brings meaningful revenue and operating scale to OpenText, with a combined total addressable market of $170 billion. Micro Focus will benefit from the OpenText Business System to create stronger operations and significant cash flows, and Micro Focus customers will benefit from the OpenText Private and public clouds," Barrenechea said.

Founded in the UK in 1976, Micro Focus had become one of the nation's leading tech businesses, specializing initially in bringing COBOL to non-mainframe environments. It floated on the London Stock Exchange in 2005, spreading its tentacles into enterprise software management and application integration.

In 2009, Micro Focus acquired Borland, a developer of application lifecycle management tools, while in 2014, the company bought The Attachmate Group for $1.2 billion in shares. The latter move brought Novell – the famed networking software giant which once claimed to connect to more PCs than the internet – and Linux distro hawker SUSE. Micro Focus announced plans to merge with Hewlett Packard Enterprise's software business segment in 2017.

But things started to go pear-shaped a year later. A boardroom reorganization saw its share price slide as revenue fell short of analysts' expectations in January 2018. By the end of March, CEO Chris Hsu had quit, the company's valuation had halved, and questions mounted about the wisdom of buying HPE's software division.

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By April 2018, Hsu had been replaced by former DXC Tech UK boss Nick Wilson. It took until July to offload SUSE to private equity outfit EQT, a deal with a price tag of $2.54 billion.

The rise and fall of Micro Focus may be unique to the company. But it will also fuel questions about the UK's ability to sustain and retain the tech businesses founded there. Globally successful semiconductor designer Arm was sold to Japan's SoftBank in 2019 for about $32 billion.

Another successful software firm, Autonomy, was sold to Hewlett-Packard in 2011 for $11bn, a deal which has resulted in an ongoing court case over the company's valuation and accounting practices. ®

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