Plumtree receives unsolicited buyout offer

Corporate technology pioneer Plumtree Software announced yesterday that it had received an unsolicited buyout offer from the...

Corporate technology pioneer Plumtree Software announced yesterday that it had received an unsolicited buyout offer from the investor group Sutter Opportunity Fund 2, a unit of Sutter Capital Management.

Sutter has offered $5 per share for the stock, or $2 per share in cash and $3 per share in a promissory note due in five years' time. Sutter added that it would make a $1m good faith deposit into an account if Plumtree accepted the offer, which expires on 10 September. The offer is subject to approval by Plumtree's board of directors.

San Francisco-based Plumtree said it had no contact with Sutter Capital Management before receiving the offer by a letter dated 3 September and addressed to Plumtree chief executive officer John Kunze.

The statement added that Plumtree's board of directors would evaluate the terms of the offer in due course. Plumtree officials said they could not comment on the offer.

Plumtree went public in June amid a tough market for software IPOs.

The Sutter Opportunity Fund has launched a series of efforts to recover value from distressed investment properties. The investor group recently bid for some of WorldCom's assets and has attempted to buy out failing dotcoms.

Consolidation has been changing the face of the portal landscape for some years. With the entrance of large infrastructure companies such as IBM, BEA Systems, Computer Associates International, and Sun Microsystems, many smaller pure-play software players have been squeezed out.

Several vendors including Autonomy, Divine, and Ascential Software have shifted away from portal technology. Since the portal market formed in the late 1990s, SAP bought Top Tier and Citrix Systems acquired early market player Sequoia Software. Last month, knowledge management vendor ServiceWare Technologies acquired the assets of portal provider InfoImage, which previously filed for bankruptcy.

Rumors have swirled for some time that pure-play portal software players Plumtree and Epicentric were ripe for acquisition.

According to Hadley Reynolds, director of research at Boston-based Delphi Group, there is room in the market for software specialists such as Plumtree and Epicentric.

Platform vendors, notably IBM and BEA, are increasing the pressure on the market, but Plumtree and Epicentric "still have a lead in terms of their knowledge base and domain expertise, and that will continue to sustain their business for some time to come," Reynolds said.

Sutter's bid to buy Plumtree is an aggressive play on fears in the market, attempting to capitalise on investor panic, Reynolds added.

"We don't think Plumtree investors will value the franchise at anything like the low level this offer represents," Reynolds said.

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