Observers are asking why CheckFree Holdings Corp. agreed to pay such a high price - nearly $1 billion - last week to buy its rival in electronic bill presentment, Transpoint LLC.

The deal, once approved, would transfer 23% of CheckFree's stock to Transpoint's owners, Microsoft Corp., First Data Corp., and Citigroup Inc. It would give CheckFree $100 million of cash upon closing, resulting in a net cost to CheckFree of $900 million.

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