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Oracle and BEA swap public love letters

'I want to be wooed'

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BEA invited Oracle to play kiss-chase yesterday, as the database vendor came over all tough and macho in its effort to acquire the middleware firm.

Oracle sent BEA's directors a letter yesterday bemoaning their rejection of its $17 per share offer, and their refusal to meet their counterparts at Redwood Shores.

It called on them to "let BEA's shareholders decide". Apparently, the way to do this is to "sign an acquisition agreement with Oracle" then let shareholders vote to accept it.

The letter claimed that Oracle's offer was generous, and that there were no other offers for the firm. It then threatened to withdraw its offer next Sunday if BEA doesn't begin playing ball.

BEA boss William Klein responded in short order, direct to Oracle pres Charles Phillips, saying that the unsolicited $17 "is not in the best interests of BEA shareholders".

"BEA is worth significantly more than $17 to Oracle, to others, and most importantly to BEA shareholders," he sighed.

Klein then pooh-poohed Oracle's threatened deadline, saying: "Despite your statement that Oracle will withdraw its proposal, we simply cannot accept an offer that seriously undervalues BEA."

BEA then turned coquettish, pointing out that the "board has not indicated that it would be opposed to a transaction that appropriately reflects BEA's value, reached through a reasonable process". It was Oracle that had rejected any such process, he added.

So, in short, BEA's directors are happy to give it up to Oracle, but want to be wooed first. And it would help if Larry can put away the cubic zirconium and produce a nice big fat genuine rock.

So, will it all be over by Sunday? Unlikely. For all its bluster about walking away, Oracle has not shied away from long drawn out takeovers in the past. And with BEA's shares changing hands at $17.87, everyone else is betting that Larry will shell out for a few candlelit dinners before upping his offer. ®

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