updated 3/14/2005 6:53:27 PM ET 2005-03-14T23:53:27

International Business Machines Corp. is buying Ascential Software Corp., which makes software that helps business manage data, for $1.1 billion in cash. Ascential shares rose more than 16 percent in early trading.

IBM said Monday the acquisition addresses a key customer challenge — applying technology to respond more quickly to changing market conditions.

Ascential is a “data integration” company, offering businesses software that integrates data from disparate sources. For instance, IBM said that retailers use Ascential’s software to gather, standardize and structure sales information from multiple sources, such as the Internet, catalogs and stores, and make rapid inventory and pricing adjustments in response to changing market demands.

Revenue at Ascential, a publicly held company based in Westboro, Mass., rose 46 percent to $271.9 million in 2004. The company has 3,000 customers in businesses such as insurance, financial services, manufacturing, consumer goods and government, it said in its latest annual report.

The company, which was incorporated in 1986, had 856 employees at the end of 2003, according to the annual report.

Ascential sold its database software systems business, called Informix Software, to IBM for $1 billion during the third quarter of 2001.

IBM has been a reseller of Ascential Software’s products and accounted for more than 10 percent of the company’s revenue in 2002, according to the annual report.

The purchase price of $18.50 a share is a 17.8 percent premium over Ascential’s closing price of $15.70 on Friday on the Nasdaq Stock Market. Ascential shares surged $2.59, or 16.5 percent, to close at $18.29 in Monday trading on the Nasdaq Stock Market.

The acquisition is subject to approval by regulators and Ascential Software shareholders, and is expected to close in the second quarter of 2005.

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