PeopleSoft board opens up to Oracle

While it has so far rejected each of Oracle's takeover offers, PeopleSoft's board of directors is willing to talk about a deal at...

While it has so far rejected each of Oracle's takeover offers, PeopleSoft's board of directors is willing to talk about a deal at the right price, a member of PeopleSoft's board said.

On the stand for the second day in a Delaware court room, PeopleSoft director Steven Goldby testified that if the price was right there was a "high certainty" that a deal could close quickly.

Oracle has attempted to buy PeopleSoft for 16 months and is challenging two of PeopleSoft's takeover defences, a "poison pill" and a customer refund programme.

During the his first day of testimony, Goldby said that while then PeopleSoft chief executive officer Craig Conway slammed the door on Oracle, the board never did the same.

"Never did we imply that there were no set of conditions under which we could imagine being acquired by Oracle," Goldby testified.

Oracle is offering $21 (£12) per share for a total of $7.7bn for PeopleSoft. The company's board of directors has unanimously rejected each of Oracle's offers as inadequate.

Speculation that PeopleSoft's board may be warming to Oracle's offer peaked last week when the board dismissed Conway due to a "loss of confidence" in the chief executive's ability to lead the company. Conway adamantly opposed the Oracle bid.

"We will never sell, there is no condition, no price at which we will ever sell this company," Conway had said.

Oracle overcame a major obstacle in its quest for PeopleSoft last month when a federal judge in San Francisco rejected the US Department of Justice's (DOJ's) effort to block the takeover on antitrust grounds. The DOJ last week said it will not appeal that ruling.

The last regulatory obstacle for Oracle is winning the approval of the European Commission, where officials said commissioner Mario Monti wants to rule on the case before the end of his tenure ends on 1 November.  It seems unlikely that Monti could veto the merger by the end of October, observers said, raising expectations that the commission will support it.

Joris Evers writes for IDG News Service

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