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Oracle eyes Business Objects from afar

Acquisition of hit-list target a remote possibility

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Following the revelations over Microsoft's merger discussions with SAP, speculation is rife about over the next wave of M&A activity in the enterprise applications software field. Business Objects was among those named on Oracle's potential takeover list, though an acquisition by the Californian firm in the near future is nothing more than a remote possibility.

Shares in Business Objects rallied up by as much as 4 per cent following the publication of the list and subsequent takeover speculation among investors. The Franco-US company was one of nine companies included as "potential targets" in a memorandum document presented to Oracle's board in April 2003.

Other companies mentioned in the list included JD Edwards, Cerner and BEA Systems. The 48-page document was released publicly this week as evidence in a US antitrust suit over Oracle's $7.7bn hostile takeover of archrival PeopleSoft. Regulators are seeking to block this move claiming it would stifle competition and drive business application software prices skywards.

The publication of the 'Oracle Nine' comes at a time when mega-merger hype in the enterprise applications software sector is at its peak. Earlier this month Microsoft revealed it had held discussions with German business software giant SAP about a possible merger. Two companies on Oracle's list have also merged with bigger companies: PeopleSoft acquired JD Edwards last summer for $2bn and EMC swallowed up Documentum at the end of last year for $1.8bn.

With California-based Oracle currently fighting tooth and nail to buy PeopleSoft, the list may not seem so far-fetched after all, although the companies targeted are quite different in the products they offer.

Oracle's list once again puts Business Objects in the merger and acquisition spotlight. Last summer the company made a $820m swoop for rival BI software maker Crystal Decisions, which sparked off a mini-wave of consolidation in the BI sector.

However, Oracle has its hands full at the moment with the PeopleSoft lawsuit while Business Objects is going full throttle to integrate Crystal's technology into its BI suite, making a takeover between the two unlikely in the short term at least.

Source: ComputerWire/Datamonitor

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