Beleaguered BEA

BEA Systems (Nasdaq: BEAS  ) , developer of "middleware" to help companies juggle complex Web operations, has been busy with lawyers lately. In addition to completing an options investigation, the firm's also contending with a hostile bid from Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL  ) and the maneuverings of legendary shareholder activist Carl Icahn. Despite all this turmoil, the company still posted a decent Q3.

BEA is far from a growth business. Third-quarter revenue grew only 11%, to $384.4 million, while license revenue actually fell 1% to $134 million. The latter type of revenue is critical, because it tends to lead to customers paying higher maintenance and services fees.

So where can BEA find growth? Based on the earnings conference call, its strategy sounds kind of vague. The company's talking about new technologies such as Web 2.0, but so are rivals such as IBM (NYSE: IBM  ) , salesforce.com (NYSE: CRM  ) , and SAP (NYSE: SAP  ) .

BEA thinks its shares are worth at least $21 apiece. Wall Street disagrees, currently pricing the stock around $16.50. Oracle was only willing to offer $17 per share. And in light of recent volatility in the financial services market and problems with the economy, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison is hinting that he may pay even less.

Still, I think this is just posturing on Ellison's part. Ultimately, I believe Oracle and BEA will settle on some type of deal, especially with BEA's stock price now only $0.50 below Oracle's original bid. But in the turbulent buyout world, deals can fall apart quickly. I'd advise Fools to steer clear of BEA until the dust settles a bit.

Further BEA-tific Foolishness:


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