BEA finally caves to Oracle’s advances

The turn of 2007/2008 was an industry-changing period for acquisitions, with the titans of IT and communications – IBM, Oracle, Nokia, BT, Microsoft – all active in multiple transactions

While MICROSOFT’s $44.6 billion pending bid for YAHOO may have grabbed the limelight, its agreed move to buy Norwegian search technology provider FAST is likely to have more immediate corporate impact. The price of NOK6.6 billon ($1.2bn) represents a 42% premium on the company’s market capitalisation and is surprising to many given some of the weaknesses in the company’s balance sheet and allegations of questionable accounting methods. But Microsoft was in a spending mood (see Company Analysis).

The purchase is an endorsement for those parties who argue that search – already the paradigm for dealing with information overload on the Internet – is an equally powerful tool in corporate information management. “Enterprise search is becoming an indispensable tool to businesses of all sizes, helping people find, use and share critical business information quickly,’’ said Jeff Raikes, the head of Microsoft’s Business Division, into which FAST will now be integrated. Users as diverse as UPS and Weightwatchers will be watching attentively to see how well the worlds of Microsoft and FAST blend.

But that was small beer compared to a much heralded $8.5 billion transaction in January. The shareholders of independent middleware provider BEA SOFTWARE finally succumbed to the advances of voracious computing powerhouse ORACLE after having rejected a $6.5 billion bid in October 2007.

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison challenged claims that the acquisition calls into question the quality of his company’s own middleware products. But he says the two company’s products will be complementary.

“Customers will be able to choose between Oracle and BEA, knowing that their products will gracefully interoperate and be supported for years to come,” he insisted. Customer experience and practicality, however, would suggest otherwise: that one product of the two companies’ middleware approaches will be favoured.

Pete Swabey

Pete Swabey

Pete was Editor of Information Age and head of technology research for Vitesse Media plc from 2005 to 2013, before moving on to be Senior Editor and then Editorial Director at The Economist Intelligence...

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