Microsoft Corp sought to bolster its enterprise search efforts and increase its European presence as it announced Tuesday that it will offer to acquire Norwegian search firm Fast Search & Transfer ASA for about $1.2 billion.

The cash offer is for 19.00 Norwegian kroner per share, a 42 percent premium to the closing stock price of the company on Jan. 4.

Fast board directors have unanimously recommended to shareholders that they accept the offer, Microsoft said in a statement.

A pair of share holders holding 37 percent of shares– Orkla ASA and Hermes Focus Asset Management Europe – have accepted the offer, Microsoft said.

The transaction is expected to close in the second quarter of 2008.

Enterprise search is becoming an indispensable tool to businesses of all sizes, helping people find, use and share critical business information quickly, said Jeff Raikes, president of the Microsoft Business Division.

Microsoft touted FAST's expertise in high-end search solutions, adding that it would complement its global reach, extensive partner network and leadership in business productivity software such as Microsoft Office SharePoint Server.

By joining Microsoft, we can benefit from the momentum behind the SharePoint business productivity platform to really empower a broader set of users through Microsoft's strong sales and marketing network, said John Lervik, CEO of FAST in a statement.

Approval requires approval representing more than 90 percent of fast shares and voting power as well as the clearance of various regulatory hurdles.