Shares in Micro Focus jumped yesterday after the British software company said talks with private equity investors could move it closer to being acquired.

The company told the Financial Times there was still "merit in continuing the current discussions" with a number of interested parties. Four months ago there was an initial approach from Bain Capital.

Kevin Loosemore, Micro Focus executive chairman, refused to say how long the company would continue talks. At least three private equity firms have approached Micro Focus, according to people familiar with the situation who spoke to the newspaper.

Loosemore said: "We have a view as to how long we would entertain the discussions. Clearly there's a point at which if people don't come up with a firm, executable offer, then we would aim to close it down. We haven't got to that point."

The company had not "seen any customer impact", she said, as a result of the uncertainty.

Micro Focus develops products and services to support the mature Cobol progamming language used on mainframes and other legacy platforms, and has carved out a strong niche in the banking industry among others.

Companies storing data on legacy platforms now want to move that data onto other platforms using more modern languages like Java and .Net, and Micro Focus has recently launched products to enable these moves.

The company has also moved into the cloud space with its Virtual Mainframe offering.