Europe OKs OracleSoft

Mr. Ellison, it's time to negotiate.

Yesterday, the European Commission, the regulatory arm of the European Union, approved your proposed $7.7 billion takeover bid of business software maker PeopleSoft (Nasdaq: PSFT  ) . But you knew this was coming, didn't you? Last month, a federal judge ruled in your favor despite opposition from the Justice Department.

Your string of victories in the pursuit of PeopleSoft has been impressive. Indeed, former CEO and chief OracleSoft opponent Craig Conway is gone. Most on the Street have come around to your way of thinking on the acquisition. Rare are the mentions of the proxy fight you threatened earlier this year.

Yet this latest case, in which you're trying to get PeopleSoft's anti-takeover provisions classified as illegal, may be a lost cause. Does it really matter? Don't you ultimately want to broker a friendly deal that helps both parties? A ruling is expected in November, but you ought to get prepared for bad news.

So, much as I, as an Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL  ) shareholder, appreciate your willingness to do whatever is necessary to get the best possible price for PeopleSoft, further delay in getting to the bargaining table is no longer acceptable. PeopleSoft is willing to talk, but you'll have to raise your offer.

Yes, there's little question that PeopleSoft's improvements in third-quarter sales and earnings were likely almost entirely due to the customer assurance program (CAP) that ensures customers' investments even in the event of a takeover. Yes, I know the third quarter was the first in which doubts about the validity of the CAP were lifted with the settling of shareholder lawsuits. Yes, I know PeopleSoft isn't somehow stronger than today because of those results, and that $21 share is no bargain for the firm.

But look at what's ahead, Mr. Ellison: You're facing another court date in January in which PeopleSoft is seeking more than $1 billion in damages for disrupting its business. Your company also has seen its own business software sales slow recently. Even if you win in January, it appears the only way you'll win PeopleSoft without a higher offer is through a proxy fight next spring.

Sir, all that could be done has been done. Prove that you aren't just out to hurt a competitor. Go talk with Mr. Duffield at PeopleSoft, and work out a deal. It doesn't have to be the totally outrageous $34 per share that a reader suggested earlier this week. But something better than what is on the table now. Perhaps even the $26 per stub you offered in February.

If that's rejected, then, well, move on. PeopleSoft's court case against you will have lost all merit, and you'll be free to pursue other attractive targets. Plus, all of us shareholders will probably sleep a little better, too.

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Fool contributor Tim Beyers owns shares of Oracle. You can view his Fool profile and other stock holdings here.


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