In a move that opens new market opportunities in Europe while taming competition in the United States, Microsoft Corp. said today it will acquire Vedbaek, Denmark-based Navision, a provider of business software for small and mid-size companies.

Navision will operate as part of Microsoft Great Plains Business Solutions, a Microsoft division formed last year after the Redmond, Washington, company acquired Great Plains Software, which also provides business software for small and mid-size businesses. Indeed, Navision’s past attempts to grow in the U.S. market had positioned it as a competitor of Great Plains. The top news item listed today in the “Latest News” section on Navision’s U.S. Web site reports on the company’s intention to “unseat” Microsoft Great Plains as the dominant provider of enterprise resource planning systems for mid-size companies in North America. Navision’s products include financial and e- commerce software as well as ERP software. Its U.S. headquarters are in Duluth, Georgia.

In recent years, Navision has been strengthening its ties with Microsoft. In September, it launched Commerce Portal, a business-to-business e-commerce product that incorporates Microsoft Commerce Server and runs on Windows 2000 and Microsoft SQL Server. Among Commerce Portal’s capabilities are conducting reverse auctions and enabling trading partners to check order status.

Another Microsoft product, Commerce Gateway, which integrates with Microsoft’s BizTalk Server to automate business processes, is designed for supply chain collaboration. Built with Extensible Markup Language, Commerce Gateway is also designed to provide enable small companies to connect with electronic data interchange systems.

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