16 February 2004 The European Commission has set a new deadline of 11 May for its final decision on whether to back Oracle’s hostile $9.4 billion takeover bid for rival PeopleSoft.
The Commission, which posted the new date on its website on 13 February, had last month suspended its four-month, in-depth review of the bid because it needed more information from Oracle in order to make a decision.
Regulators in Europe and the US are concerned that the takeover will undermine competition in the business-applications software sector.
On 11 February, the US Department of Justice (DoJ)’s antitrust division recommended that Oracle’s hostile takeover be blocked on antitrust grounds. Some observers expect the recommendation to have a big impact on the DoJ’s final decision, which is expected on 2 March.
The decision in Europe will likely echo that of the DOJ, suggest analysts. But the Commission could well stop the clock again if they need further information from either of the parties involved.
During the last year, European regulators have loosened their once strict timetable to make decisions on huge mergers like that of Oracle-PeopleSoft in order to gather more evidence and better co-ordinate with US regulators.
PeopleSoft has always claimed that a combination with Oracle would drastically reduce competition in the business applications software sector. On 9 February, the PeopleSoft board rejected Oracle’s revised bid of $9.4 billion, insisting the price still did not reflect the company’s true value.
Oracle’s original bid, made in June 2003, had been just $5.1 billion.