PeopleSoft, Oracle trade punches with latest filing

Oracle is hoping that the government's investigation into its attempted hostile takeover of rival PeopleSoft Inc. will probably be wrapped up by November.

Earlier this week, Oracle's executive vice president and head of marketing, Chuck Phillips, said, "Our best guess is that it will all conclude in the late November time frame."

Since June, the database and business applications maker has been trying to swallow Pleasanton, Calif.-based PeopleSoft, a move that spawned lawsuits from both companies and even the intervention of the U.S. Department of Justice, which has concerns about possible antitrust issues.

Because of the regulatory roadblock, Oracle extended the deadline for its US$7.3 billion tender offer for PeopleSoft to Sept. 19 from Aug. 8.

The week before Phillips' statement, PeopleSoft announced that it had widened its complaint against Oracle over unfair trading practices. In a statement, PeopleSoft said the partly sealed complaint in the California Superior Court, Alameda County, alleges that Oracle has worked to disrupt PeopleSoft's relationship with its customers and is planning a "deliberate campaign to mislead PeopleSoft customers about Oracle's plans to support PeopleSoft products."

The interference complaint also applies to J.D. Edwards & Co.'s customers, who are now PeopleSoft customers as a result of the closing of that friendly merger. Because those two companies have consolidated, PeopleSoft will also collapse their two previously separate lawsuits against Oracle into one.

Oracle was generally mum about the latest legal maneuvers. "It would be inappropriate for us to comment without having seen the filing," Oracle spokesman Jim Finn said in a statement. "We were aware they were going to file an amended complaint, so we are not surprised and it does not change our commitment to acquire PeopleSoft."

Oracle has also moved to sue PeopleSoft in a Delaware court in an effort to force the company to remove the "poison pill" antitakeover provisions.

Provided that regulatory approval is granted, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison has said he would wait until next June to try and take over PeopleSoft's board at its annual election, if need be.

Users expressed mixed opinions over these moves. "My hope is that executive management within PeopleSoft is focusing on how to make the new [merged] company successful and they are leaving this [takeover] fight to their hired [legal] guns," said Mark Federle, CIO at The Weitz Co., a Des Moines-based contractor that uses hosted J.D. Edwards OneWorld XE applications. He said he opposes the merger, noting that he "wished Larry would find someone else to acquire."

On the other hand, by extending the tender offer, Oracle continues to show that it's serious about the deal, said Kyle Lambert, vice president of information solutions at Washington-based hops grower and processor John I. Hass Inc., which runs Oracle products. "If the PeopleSoft merger was a good idea a month ago, it is still a good idea. So far, this acquisition has taken less time than negotiating most long-distance contracts."

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