Business Objects Is Buyout Bait?

It has been a hot week for enterprise software developer Business Objects (Nasdaq: BOBJ  ) , whose stock price has been up as much as 10%. The company launched the Web-based version of its software, but something else got investors excited: Over the weekend, French newspaper Le Figaro reported that Business Objects had hired Goldman Sachs to field buyout overtures from five parties.

Business Objects is certainly an attractive target. Over the past 17 years, the company has built a software powerhouse with more than 43,000 customers and 3,000 partners and resellers. It focuses on the "business intelligence" (BI) segment, which helps companies improve the analysis of their hoards of data.

But to remain competitive, the company launched its Business Intelligence OnDemand system this week. Through a browser, customers can easily query data, produce reports, and integrate with data sources like Salesforce.com (NYSE: CRM  ) .

Business Objects also released Information OnDemand, which provides seamless access to proprietary data sources from Dun & Bradstreet , eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY  ) , Thomson, the U.S. Department of Commerce, and so on.

I think these are important moves. With its large footprint, Business Objects should be able to cross-sell its new offerings as well as expand its market for mid-size and smaller customers. After all, Web-based software tends to be easier to install and maintain.

As for the buyout rumors? The usual rumored buyers include IBM (NYSE: IBM  ) , SAP (NYSE: SAP  ) , Microsoft, and Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL  ) . 

But keep in mind that Oracle has already spent $3.3 billion to acquire Hyperion, which is a rival of Business Objects.  Furthermore, SAP is not known for making large acquisitions; it recently purchased a smaller BI player, OutlookSoft, for an undisclosed amount.

In other words, it's not easy to predict major strategic transactions.  However, rumors have helped Business Objects' value rise to about three times trailing-12-month revenue, which is a fair price. The Hyperion buyout was at roughly 3.4 times revenue. So for Foolish investors, it's probably best to temper things. 

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