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'OK, $9.4 Billion Cash But Not a Penny More'

'OK, $9.4 Billion Cash But Not a Penny More'

Oracle has gone and done what it didn't want to do, but had to do if it's going to keep on pursuing PeopleSoft. It raised its bid from $19.50 to $26 a share or from $7.1 billion to $9.4 billion cash.

Larry Ellison, who started at $16 a share, swears the 33% sweetener is absolutely positively his final offer.

The price on offer is probably the only problem associated with Oracle's hostile tender offer that was easy to solve. Oracle just had to grit its teeth.

Oracle, whose sincerity about the acquisition has been in doubt, had to raise its price because PeopleSoft shares have been up over the $19.50 floor for months now.

Oracle moved when PeopleSoft shares were dipping. PeopleSoft's board, which may now be in something of a quandary and under some pressure, has said it will meet to consider the new price.

When last spotted, however, the quarry was doing what it could to prevent itself from being run to ground. In what it called an effort to bring its situation with Oracle to a head, PeopleSoft moved up its annual stockholders meeting by two months to March 25.

PeopleSoft stockholders are supposed to vote on who they want on the board at the meeting.

Oracle of course is making moves to pack the board with Oracle friendlies. PeopleSoft has four incumbents it wants re-elected. Oracle, which needs the PeopleSoft bylaws changed for its scheme to work, is fielding a slate of five alternates. If they get on the board, the board would quit voting again Oracle's hostile bid.

Then again, at some point between now and then the Justice Department could finally render its decision on whether it would allow an Oracle-PeopleSoft merger. The latest speculation suggested the agency will quash it.

Meanwhile, PeopleSoft posted its fourth-quarter earnings. Sales were up 34% to $685.2 million and profits dropped 70% to $17.4 million, or five cents a share, because of costs associated with its JD Edwards acquisition. Without those costs, earnings would have been 20 cents. License revenues were up 29.5% to $185.4 million. PeopleSoft CEO Craig Conway said, "It could have been a better year."

The company lowered its guidance for this quarter to $625 million-$635 million with license revenues of $130 million-$140 million and earnings of 17 cents or 18 cents. Its year is supposed be backend-loaded but one Wall Streeter cracked that the company didn't benefit from the Q4 upside and is taking advantage of Q1's seasonal downturn.

PeopleSoft's announcement gave Oracle the opportunity to wade in and say that, "We are not surprised that PeopleSoft management wants its shareholders to vote on its board slate before they have a chance to see the results of the first quarter, particularly since PeopleSoft just lowered its guidance for the quarter."

By the way, that cute little refund program PeopleSoft put in place to ward Oracle off had a liability of $1.5 billion at the end of December. A total price of, like, $12 billion might be a little steep for Oracle shareholders to countenance.

Oracle has $8.1 billion in cash and a $1.5 billion credit line. The tender offer is supposed to run till March 12. Presumably Oracle expects a decision from the DOJ by then.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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