Ellison talks acquisitions and mocks PeopleSoft's Conway

Oracle executives said more takeovers could follow the company's bid for PeopleSoft.

Oracle executives said more takeovers could follow the company's bid for PeopleSoft.

"We'd be interested in buying almost anything," said Oracle chairman and chief executive officer Larry Ellison.

However, "almost anything" does have its exclusions. Oracle would not buy Ariba or CommerceOne, suppliers of online marketplaces.

Oracle also considered buying Legato Systems, but did not because it felt it could not win from Veritas Software in storage management software space, Ellison said.

Data storage supplier EMC announced a deal to buy Legato in a stock transaction valued at $1.3bn (£800m).

On the database side of its business, Oracle is interested in technologies that will help users reduce cost and fit with its strategy of getting more information into a database, while on the applications side Oracle wants to move further into verticals such as healthcare and retail, said Oracle executive vice-president Safra Catz.

There are also new markets that Oracle would like to get into, said executive vice-president Chuck Phillips.

Phillips was recruited to Oracle after years on Wall Street as an analyst covering enterprise software and is one of the main forces behind Oracle's bid for PeopleSoft.

"We generate a tremendous amount of cash and we have been using that cash to buy back our stock. We could have been using that money for acquisitions," said Ellison.

Oracle prefers friendly acquisitions whereby the takeover target agrees to be bought, said Catz.

"Our preference is to do something friendly, but friendliness was not going to be a possibility here. Out hopes are that all our deals are friendly," she said. Added Phillips: "We are generally friendly people."

Ellison vowed to continue to pursue PeopleSoft, even if it takes a year to get the deal done, and said that the supplier could not survive on its own in a consolidating enterprise software market.

"It is going to get very, very tough out there and they are just not big enough company, a strong enough company to be competitive," he warned.

Oracle launched a $5.1bn hostile takeover bid for PeopleSoft in early June, days after PeopleSoft said it would buy JD Edwards. Oracle later increased its bid to $6.3bn.

Fielding questions from the financial analysts, Ellison, Phillips and Catz repeated the arguments Oracle has made in favour of the PeopleSoft bid. Ellison came out strongly once more against PeopleSoft chief executive offier Craig Conway's defensive reaction to the bid.

"At one point Craigy [Conway] thought I was going to shoot his dog," Ellison said. "I love animals. If Craigy and [his dog] were standing next to each other and I had one bullet, trust me, it wouldn't be for the dog.''

Ellison's comment was, apparently, related to quotes attributed to Conway shortly after Oracle launched its bid for PeopleSoft. "It's like me asking if I could buy your dog so I can go out back and shoot it".

The companies are also fighting in courts and advertisements.

Oracle has said it would not actively market PeopleSoft products after acquiring the company, but that it would support the applications. PeopleSoft sees an acquisition by Oracle as the end of its products and fiercely opposes Oracle's bid.

Joris Evers writes for IDG News Service

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