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LONDON Britain’s Sage Group posted a 4 percent rise in profit on Wednesday after higher sales of subscriptions for IT support offset weaker demand for its software in key markets such as France and Spain.

The company, whose software is used by more than 6 million small businesses to run payroll and accounts, posted adjusted pretax profit of 356.3 million pounds ($ 574 million) for the year to end-September.

Analysts were expecting 346.6 million, according to a Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S poll of 21 brokers.

Underlying revenue edged up 2 percent to 1.3 billion pounds, half the growth rate recorded in 2011, but it said growth accelerated towards the end of the year, particularly in North America.

Chief executive Guy Berruyer said on Wednesday that it was a solid performance in the context of a macro-economic environment that remained difficult in most of its markets.

Sage is paying a final dividend 6.67 pence per share, taking the total payout for the year to 10.15 pence, up 4 percent.

($ 1 = 0.6209 British pounds)

(Reporting by Paul Sandle; editing by Kate Holton)

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