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Cisco to gain Latitude for $80 million

Networking giant Cisco Systems says it will acquire the maker of software for Web-based conferencing sometime in the second quarter of fiscal 2004.

Cisco Systems will buy conferencing software maker Latitude Communications in an effort to beef up its voice technology group.

The company, which makes equipment that directs Internet traffic, will pay $3.95 in cash for each outstanding share of Latitude, equaling the $80 million sum, the company said Wednesday in a statement.

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The networking giant also expects to take a one-time charge for in-process research and development expenses. The deal is expected to close during the second quarter of Cisco's fiscal year 2004, which ends in January.

Latitude, of Santa Clara, Calif., sells software products such as MeetingPlace, which handles audio and Web conferencing and works with companies' Lotus Notes or Microsoft Outlook e-mail and scheduling systems. The MeetingPlace software also works with Cisco's CallManager, allowing people to schedule and attend meetings using Cisco's Internet Protocol phones.

Latitude will become part of Cisco's Voice Technology Group, and products such as MeetingPlace will be sold under the Cisco brand. Cisco also intends to meld MeetingPlace with its Cisco IP videoconferencing products.

"This acquisition will enable Cisco to accelerate delivery of intelligent multimedia conferencing solutions which take advantage of dynamic network improve workplace productivity," Don Proctor, general manager of Cisco's Voice Technology Group, said in a statement.

Cisco, which reported first-quarter earnings that met analysts' expectations on Nov. 5, has been expanding its efforts in wireless networking, Internet Protocol phones--where the Latitude acquisition fits in--storage-area networking and optical networking.

Latitude was founded in 1993 and went public in 1999. The company has 183 employees, and it reported revenue of $26 million for the first nine months of 2003, ending Sept. 30.