PeopleSoft users confident Oracle deal is dead

Customers attending last week's PeopleSoft Connect said they were inclined to believe chief executive officer Craig Conway's...

Customers attending last week's PeopleSoft Connect show said they were inclined to believe chief executive officer Craig Conway's assurances that the proposed deal with Oracle is dead.

In his opening keynote, Conway had proclaimed that "the saga is over", and said Oracle had failed in its bid because of the support PeopleSoft's customers offered the company, both verbally and by opening their wallets.

Bevcore, a Minnesota-based food service equipment parts supplier, is a customer of both PeopleSoft and Oracle. The company uses Oracle's database software. When Bevcore evaluated applications suppliers, it opted PeopleSoft because of the breadth of its offerings and its better-designed thin-client interface.

"We chose PeopleSoft over Oracle two years ago, and we'd do the same thing today," said chief technology officer David Womeldorf.

Oracle's $7.3bn tender offer to PeopleSoft's shareholders remains in place, but the tenor of its campaign waned after the US Department of Justice extended its review of the proposed deal's antitrust implications.

Oracle executives have said they expect that review to conclude in November. If the DOJ gives the go-ahead, Oracle intends to reignite its efforts to win the support of PeopleSoft's shareholders.

Another obstacle Oracle faces is PeopleSoft's "poison pill", a provision in its bylaws that would allow it to thwart a takeover by diluting its shares and making an acquisition prohibitively expensive. Oracle is asking a Delaware court to force PeopleSoft to revoke or redeem the poison pill.

One customer at Connect said Conway's comments about PeopleSoft's anti-takeover provisions helped reassure him that the company will succeed in fending off Oracle.

"My chief financial officer was really nervous - he was afraid Oracle would take them over and kill all the products," said Andrew Ziegele, vice president of IT at Consolidated Container in Atlanta, which relies on software acquired by PeopleSoft through its recent purchase of JD Edwards."

PeopleSoft surprised analysts last quarter by meeting the financial expectations set for the company before Oracle announced its bid.

Napa County (California) director of information services Ben Wilson said his department moved forward some planned PeopleSoft purchases to help the company hit its targets last quarter.

Napa County executives fired off a letter to Oracle soon after it announced its takeover plans, criticising the company's behaviour and intentions. Since then, several top Oracle executives have tried to reach Wilson to discuss Oracle's plans for PeopleSoft, but Wilson said he is not interested.

Bevcore's Womeldorf said he is hopeful the DOJ will block Oracle's acquisition attempt. After being contacted by the DOJ, his company outlined its reasons for opposing the deal.

As the DOJ continues its assessment, Oracle and PeopleSoft are battling in court over a PeopleSoft lawsuit charging Oracle with fraud, libel, false advertising and tortuous interference.

PeopleSoft's court filings in the case are laced with internal e-mails from Oracle executives cheering the takeover bid's detrimental effects on PeopleSoft - statements Oracle says are accurate but taken out of context.

The next court hearing on the suit is scheduled for late October.

Stacy Cowley writes for IDG News Service

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