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eGain snaps up Inference for $78 million

eGain Communications Corp. (Nasdaq: EGAN) said Thursday it would buy Inference Corp. (Nasdaq: INFR), a fellow customer relationship management software maker, for about $78.6 million.

Shares in eGain closed at 51 1/2 Wednesday, having soared since the company went public, along with competitor Kana Communications (Nasdaq: KANA), in September. Other competitors include (Nasdaq: MSTG) and Prime Response (Nasdaq: PRME).

Inference shares closed at 10 1/4.

eGain will acquire Inference in exchange for common stock valued at $78.6 million, based on the average closing price of eGain's stock over the 20 trading days ending on March 15.

The acquisition will more than double eGain's global sales and is another move in its grab for leadership in customer-centric interactive software. The purchase will also expand eGain's European business, and add new components to its technology.

Under the merger, which will be accounted for as a purchase transaction, Inference shareholders will receive 0.1865 shares of eGain for each share of Inference. The exchange ratio is subject to change based on the average closing price of eGain's common stock. Upon closing of the deal, expected within the next 90 days, Inference stockholders will own about 5.5 percent of eGain's stock.

eGain and Inference, which already had a technology and marketing partnership, have common customers including AOL (NYSE: AOL), Thomson Consumer Electronics (, 3Com (Nasdaq: COMS), Sykes (Nasdaq: SYKE), the Italian Post Office and the two largest Internet banks in the United Kingdom.