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Sage is relaxed about Microsoft muscling into the small business accountancy software market.

According to chief exec Paul Walker, Microsoft's Small Business Manager, launched last month through the giant's company's Great Plains Unit, is not a direct threat, but aimed at higher end users. Sage's and close rival Intuit's dominant market position in the US SME space would make things difficult for Microsoft, he said during a conference call announcing a healthy sales and a 13 per cent profit rise.

Sage's full-year profit rose £83.7 million ($119 million) from £74 million a year earlier. Sales rose 17 per cent to £484.1 million from £412.2 million.

During the year Sage attracted 248,000 new customers, growing the size of its installed base by 10 per cent to 2.8 million SMEs. These figures don't include the installed base of Interact which Sage bought in May 2001 for £189 million and which is used by three million sales folk. TAS Software, acquired in February 2001, added 25,000 entry-level accounting customers.

Sales in the UK were £148.8 million, up from £55 million a year earlier. Mainland Europe sales were £102.5 million, up from £98.2 million, and US sales were £209.2 million, up from £195.0 million. ®

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