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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 October, 2004, 15:15 GMT 16:15 UK
EU go-ahead for Oracle takeover
By Manuela Saragosa
BBC Europe business reporter in Brussels

Reflection in a Peoplesoft sign at its California headquarters
Oracle may now have Peoplesoft firmly in its sights
The European Commission has given US giant Oracle the green light to go ahead with its takeover of American rival Peoplesoft.

The move clears one of the last hurdles for Oracle in its $7.7bn (4.2bn) takeover of its competitor in the business software market.

The EU's competition commissioner Mario Monti had been investigating the takeover and its potential impact on the market since November last year.

His decision to let the deal proceed, without any conditions attached, comes after competition regulators in the US came to the same conclusion.

Follows US decision

Mr Monti had originally expressed concern that Oracle's takeover of Peoplesoft would leave only two main players in the market for complex software programs used to run corporations and institutions - Oracle and Germany's SAP.

But in its press release on the matter today, the Commission said: "After a detailed probe, the Commission has concluded that there is an absence of sufficient evidence of competitive harm especially in view of the fact that large and complex companies...have other suppliers to serve their needs beside Oracle, PeopleSoft and SAP"

That echoes the view of a US federal judge overseeing Oracle's antitrust case earlier this year.

He said the US Justice Department - which was looking to block the takeover of Peoplesoft - had failed to prove that the deal hurts competition.

Hostile approach

Mr Monti's decision adds to existing pressure on PeopleSoft's board to reconsider Oracle's most recent offer of $21 a share.

Peoplesoft has been bitterly contesting the takeover.

It rejected the $21 a share price in May, maintaining the offer undervalues the company, but Oracle has extended its hostile takeover offer to 5 November.

Mr Monti wasn't actually due to give a decision on the takeover until 9 November.

But he appears to be keen to clear his in-tray before leaving office at the end of the month to make way for a new EU executive.

Earlier this month, Mr Monti agreed to end a five-year long dispute with Coca Cola over the soft drink giant's anti-competitive sales practices in Europe.

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