Novell shareholders approve sale to Attachmate

The deal still hangs on a controversial patent deal with Microsoft, Oracle and other vendors

Novell's shareholders have approved the sale of the company to Attachmate for about $2.2 billion, although the deal depends on Novell getting approval to sell hundreds of patents to a consortium led by Microsoft.

About 99 percent of the shares voted at Thursday's special shareholder meeting were voted in favor of the acquisition, Novell said. That represented 66 percent of Novell's total outstanding shares, enough for the merger to go ahead.

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However, the sale depends partly on Novell getting antitrust approval for a controversial deal to sell more than 800 patents, for $450 million, to a consortium of companies called CPTN Holdings that includes Microsoft, Oracle, and EMC.

That deal triggered alarm bells among open-source software advocates. They fear patents related to open-source software will fall into the hands of vendors that compete with those same open-source products.

The sale is being scrutinized by antitrust authorities in the U.S. and Germany. The U.S. Department of Justice recently asked for more information about the deal from Novell and CPTN, and Novell said it was gathering information to respond.

Exactly which patents are part of the sale still hasn't been made public, although a few details emerged in January.

Attachmate made its bid for Novell in November, ending months of speculation about who would try to buy the company. Attachmate is backed by private equity firms Francisco Partners, Golden Gate Capital and Thoma Bravo. Its products include software for terminal emulation and fraud detection.

Novell is best known these days for its SUSE Linux OS and Xen virtualization software. Attachmate has said it would run Novell as two separate business units -- Novell and SUSE.

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