No one will ever accuse Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL ) CEO Larry Ellison of being afraid to go for the jugular. That's how he ended PeopleSoft, and it's how he and his team are conducting the current battle with German business software maker SAP (NYSE: SAP ) .
Oracle fired another salvo Wednesday, with an agreement to acquire performance management software provider Hyperion Solutions (Nasdaq: HYSL ) for $3.3 billion in cash. Management says the deal, expected to close in April, will add a penny to Oracle's non-GAAP EPS in fiscal 2008, and $0.04 in fiscal 2009.
"Performance management" is geekspeak for software that helps business users track everything happening inside a company, from monitoring how fast customer service calls are completed to how quickly parts reach suppliers. Mostly, however, Hyperion's software tracks metrics that affect financial performance.
This hurts SAP for two reasons. First, by expanding its group of available applications, Oracle has all but eliminated SAP's edge in comprehensiveness. Second, SAP was never really a leader in financial analytics or business intelligence (BI) software. That's why Cognos (Nasdaq: COGN ) and Business Objects (Nasdaq: BOBJ ) still do a good business as pure-play sellers of business intelligence.
To be fair, Oracle hasn't been a heavyweight in business intelligence or analytics, either. But now, with Hyperion, it will be roughly on par with the top firms in that market, which can't be reassuring for SAP, which has long partnered with Hyperion in serving customers.
Oracle president Charles Phillips made sure to highlight that in a conference call with analysts. "Thousands of SAP customers close their books with the Hyperion product," he said. "We are achieving a critical mass in SAP accounts."
Take that mostly as bluster, since Phillips is as pugnacious as Ellison. Nevertheless, he has a point. Here's how Hyperion described the relationship in a datasheet from last October: "For every organization that has implemented an SAP infrastructure, Hyperion provides a solution to extend that investment."
Now, take that same sentence and substitute Hyperion for Oracle. Ouch.
Here's the point. Oracle's $23.3 billion (and counting) in recent acquisitions has allowed the firm to woo thousands of SAP customers as the German giant mostly plays defense. Spending to hold onto existing customers won't likely do much to spur growth.
Meanwhile, by playing offense, Oracle has little to lose and a lot to gain. That's pretty reassuring to a shareholder like me.
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Fool contributor Tim Beyers, who is ranked 1,684 out of more than 23,600 in our Motley Fool CAPS investor-intelligence database, owns shares of Oracle. His holdings can be found at Tim's Fool profile. His thoughts on tech stocks, Foolishness, and investing in general may be found in his blog. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy is performance management for your portfolio.