The European Commission's announcement that it wants to reach a decision on Oracle’s hostile bid for PeopleSoft before Mario Monti's tenure as competition commissioner ends on 31 October has prompted speculation that it will approve the merger.
Given the time needed to block mergers, it seems unlikely that Monti could veto the merger by the end of October, raising expectations that the EU will approve it.
The Commission appears not to want to wait and see if the US Department of Justice, which is against the merger on competition grounds, appeals against a court ruling that its lawyers had not been able to prove its case. The department has 60 days to lodge an appeal.
The Commission suspended its investigation into the proposed takeover in April while it waited for extra billing information from Oracle. An EU spokeswoman said officials were still trying to obtain additional information, which the company promised to send as quickly as possible.
Oracle believes the Commission has all the data it needs to take a decision.
According to sources close to the case, Monti is keen to avoid handing over the decision to his successor, Neelie Kroes. In a previous merger case involving MyTravel's Airtours division and First Choice Holidays, the preparatory work was done by Monti’s predecessor, Karel van Miert, with Monti blocking the merger within weeks of taking office.
His decision was successfully challenged by the companies, prompting the Commission to launch a major overhaul of how it took competition decisions. The result of that has been to set at a higher level the burden of proof required to block mergers.
Simon Taylor writes for IDG News Service
This was first published in September 2004