March 12, 2004 4:50 PM PST

Europe comes out against Oracle deal

The European Commission has told Oracle that it objects to its proposed takeover of rival PeopleSoft, the software maker announced on Friday.

The company, however, will have a chance to respond to the objections in writing and at an oral hearing before the EU makes its final decision, which is due by May 11.

"We are pleased to have clarity on what the commission's key issues are, and we will address these issues through our written right of reply and in our hearing testimony. The process is ongoing, and we are confident that the commission will see how competitive this business truly is," Oracle spokesman Jim Finn said in a statement.

Oracle declined to comment on the specifics of the regulators' objections. European Commission officials had previously declined to comment on the matter.

Back in November, the European Commission announced it would expand its investigation into Oracle's bid to acquire PeopleSoft. The commission, at the time, cited the need to delve further into the effects the transaction would have on business applications software markets used by "large multinational companies" to coordinate and plan their financial and human resources needs.

European regulators also noted, at the time, that if the proposed acquisition went through, "the number of key players would be reduced from three to two--Oracle and SAP--in certain applications software markets."

Those statements mirrored some of the arguments raised by the U.S. Department of Justice in its opposition to the deal. The agency is suing Oracle in U.S. District Court of Northern California to block the merger.

If the European Commission ultimately decides to prevent the deal, Oracle can appeal the decision in the European courts.

If the merger is ultimately prohibited on anticompetitive grounds in either the United States or Europe, it will be a deal-killer for Oracle, according to attorneys who specialize in antitrust.

"How many government rulings does it take before Oracle accepts that their proposal is anticompetitive?" said Steve Swasey, a PeopleSoft spokesman.

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Good to see the EC is doing its job and looking out for the market

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