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Siebel Systems bids on Net auctions

The maker of customer relationship management software agrees to buy auction software maker OpenSite in a stock deal worth roughly $444 million.

    Siebel Systems is getting into the online auction business.

    The maker of customer relationship management (CRM) software today said it has agreed to buy auction software maker OpenSite in a stock deal worth roughly $444 million.

    Under the terms of the agreement, Siebel Systems, which makes software that automates a company's sales, marketing and call-center needs, will exchange 3.9 million of its shares for all of OpenSite's outstanding shares, the company said.

    Siebel plans to use OpenSite's auction software to bolster its move into the business e-commerce market. The software will be used to support business-to-business online auctions for supplies, industrial equipment and other items.

    OpenSite's software is used by several online auction sites, including those of SharperImage.com and CNET, the publisher of News.com.

    In midday trading, Siebel's shares were up $2, or almost 2 percent, to $114.75.

    Three months ago, OpenSite agreed to acquire competitor Bidder's Edge. Today, Bidder's Edge called off that deal following Siebel's announcement.

    Gomez Advisors estimates that consumer spending on online auctions will grow from $4.5 billion last year to $15.5 billion in 2001. Online auction leader eBay has seen its auction listings grow in the last year from about 1 million items to more than 4 million currently.

    OpenSite will remain in Research Triangle Park, N.C., and operate under the Siebel Systems name. The company's CEO, Kip Frey, will become vice president and general manager of Siebel's online auction unit.

    The acquisition is expected to close in the second quarter of 2000.