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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 October, 2004, 16:57 GMT 17:57 UK
Peoplesoft may mull Oracle bid
PeopleSoft HQ
PeopleSoft has been in Oracle's sights for 15 months
A director of business software maker Peoplesoft has said the firm may be ready to negotiate with its would-be buyer, Oracle.

Peoplesoft director Steve Goldby told a Delaware court that the firm's board would be willing to discuss being taken over by Oracle if the price was right.

He added that there would have to be a "high certainty" of a quick deal.

Peoplesoft has held out against Oracle for 15 months in one of the most bitter takeover battles of recent years.

But speculation that Peoplesoft may have had a change of heart has been rife since Friday, when the firm sacked chief executive Craig Conway, who had staunchly resisted Oracle's approach.

Poison pill

That speculation peaked again on Tuesday when an analyst at Prudential Equity Group wrote in a note to clients that Peoplesoft's senior managers had visited Oracle's headquarters last week.

Mr Goldby's comments came as he was giving evidence in defence of a Peoplesoft product guarantee programme which could deter would-be buyers.

The scheme would oblige any company that takes over Peoplesoft to continue offering full technical support to its customers, or face compensation claims worth up to five times the original price of the Peoplesoft products they bought.

The programme, which could add hundreds of millions of dollars to the cost of buying Peoplesoft, is seen as one of the company's most important lines of defence against Oracle.

Oracle is asking the court to declare the scheme invalid, arguing that its proposed takeover poses no threat to Peoplesoft or its customers.

On Friday, US regulators abandoned efforts to block the acquisition on competition grounds, scuppering Peoplesoft's best hope of halting Oracle's takeover attempt.

European Union competition watchdogs could yet veto the merger, although Brussels has yet to say when it will reach a final decision.

White knight?

Competition officials are concerned that allowing Oracle and Peoplesoft to join forces would give the combined company too much influence over the multi-billion dollar market for business software.

The only other global player in the industry is Germany's SAP.

Oracle's most recent takeover offer was worth $7.7bn (4.3bn ; 6.1bn euros).

However, Peoplesoft - which on Monday substantially raised its third quarter sales forecast - is thought likely to hold out for a better deal if it does decide to negotiate.

There has also been talk of a possible second bidder, although software giant Microsoft - which last year considered buying SAP - has ruled itself out.

Peoplesoft bid battle heats up
04 Oct 04  |  Business
Oracle clear to go for PeopleSoft
10 Sep 04  |  Business
PeopleSoft spurns takeover offer
26 May 04  |  Business
Oracle reduces People bid 20%
14 May 04  |  Business
Oracle says People bid is final
18 Feb 04  |  Business
Regulators advise blocking Oracle
11 Feb 04  |  Business
Oracle increases Peoplesoft bid
04 Feb 04  |  Business

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