RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — IBM, further expanding its strategy to provide more consulting and software management services, is acquiring MRO Software in a deal worth $740 million.

IBM (NYSE: IBM), which employs some 11,000 people in the RTP area, said it would pay $25.80 a share for MRO. MRO (Nasdaq: MROI) is based in Bedford, MA.

MRO stock opened trading at $21.60 on Thursday then rose sharply to $25.46.

The deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter.

MRO provides software and consulting services focused on management of assets such as hardware and facilities.

IBM plans to incorporate MRO’s asset management technology and consulting services into its IBM Software and IBM Global Services business units.

“In a recent IBM study, 40 percent of CEOs indicated that asset utilization would be a key focus in strengthening financial performance,” said Al Zollar, general manager of IBM Tivoli software, in a statement. “MRO software is a powerful addition to IBM’s portfolio of software and services. This acquisition will provide companies with a single view into all of their assets, helping them to maximize efficiencies, drive productivity, and innovate business processes across the enterprise.”

MRO’s software operations will operate as a business unit within IBM Tivoli.

MRO customers include BP, ExxonMobile, Daimler Chrysler, Ford, GM, NASA, the U.S. Air Forces and Marines, and the Department of Defense.
For its most recent fiscal year ending in September of 2005, MRO reported revenues of $199.2 million.

On Wednesday, IBM announced that it would acquire Webify Solutions, a developer of service oriented architecture software. Terms of that deal were not disclosed.