This makes buyout group Bain the frontrunner to acquire the Swiss software manager after it first emerged as a bidder back in June.

Spokespeople for Bain, Apax and SoftwareOne declined to comment.

SoftwareOne received at least four non-binding bid proposals, as part of a strategic review, including from Bain and Apax, Reuters reported in October.

Bain's proposal valued SoftwareOne at up to 3.2 billion Swiss francs ($3.55 billion), in a range of 19.5-20.5 Swiss franc per share, a person with knowledge of the terms said at the time.

It is unclear, given SoftwareOne's recent results, if Bain would still be able to make an offer in that range, the same person said on Wednesday.

But an agreement between the two sides, potentially over exclusivity of negotiations as one option, could be reached by Christmas, the person said, who was speaking on condition of anonymity.

Last month, SoftwareOne revised downward its full-year 2023 revenue growth guidance to high single-digits, from double-digits.

SoftwareOne rejected two offers from Bain in the summer, with the second offer in July being in the same range of 19.5-20.5 Swiss francs per share.

That had followed a 2.9 billion Swiss franc offer from Bain, or the equivalent of 18.50 Swiss francs per share, for the company in June. This had the support of founding shareholders Daniel von Stockar, B Curti Holding and Rene Gilli, who together hold 29.1% of the company.

At the time SoftwareOne had said that the offer "materially undervalued" the company. That offer to take the company private was a 33% premium to the closing price on May 31.

In the wake of the failed takeover attempt, SoftwareOne said in August it was running a strategic review to maximise shareholder value.

The company reiterated in November that the strategic review was proceeding as planned and the board continued to make significant progress in evaluating various options.

SoftwareOne helps companies manage software purchases from vendors such as Microsoft, Adobe and IBM.

(Reporting by Amy-Jo Crowley, Anousha Sakoui and Oliver Hirt, additional reporting by Emma-Victoria Farr, editing by Jane Merriman)

By Amy-Jo Crowley, Anousha Sakoui and Oliver Hirt