BEA to Oracle: We're not opposed to a reasonable offer

BEA responds to Oracle in the ongoing back and forth, saying BEA would, in fact, entertain an acquisition offer -- just not the one Oracle has proposed.

BEA Systems has told Oracle the two companies can still make a deal -- just not the one on the table.

Oracle released a statement Tuesday, saying BEA's board of directors had officially turned down its offer to buy the company. It set a deadline of Sunday at 5 p.m. Pacific time for BEA to accept the US$17 per share bid.

But several hours later, BEA fired back its own missive in the form of a letter from William Klein, who is vice president of planning and development, to Oracle President Charles Phillips. In the letter, Klein characterized Oracle's offer as too low but made it clear BEA is not against being acquired for the right price.

"BEA is worth significantly more than US$17 to Oracle, to others, and most importantly to BEA shareholders," the letter said. "BEA's Board has not indicated that it would be opposed to a transaction that appropriately reflects BEA's value, reached through a reasonable process."

An Oracle spokesperson did not immediately return a request for comment.

The total value of Oracle's existing bid is about US$6.7 billion, and the enterprise software giant said Tuesday it "has no interest in a long, drawn-out process to acquire BEA."

So far, the BEA-Oracle talks have sparked dueling public statements, missed meetings and shareholder angst, but haven't been nearly as heated as other merger battles, such as Oracle's acquisition of PeopleSoft.

Still, it remains unclear whether Oracle will increase its offer for BEA, which it termed "generous" in Tuesday's statement.

"Oracle typically has some [pricing] ratios it uses in its acquisition strategy," Forrester Research Inc. analyst Ray Wang said. "If they really want to dominate the middleware space, this is an acquisition they'd want to make."

If it succeeds in buying BEA, Oracle would swallow up a major competitor in the application server space, a scenario that has had some observers wondering about the fate of BEA's technologies.

Oracle's move to purchase BEA is only the latest in a string of high-profile buys in 2007. The company has forked over billions for a wide array of enterprise software companies, including business process management vendor Hyperion Solutions and application data grid player Tangosol.

BEA has some products that would fill holes in Oracle's portfolio. But the two companies compete closely on other fronts, such as Web server and ESB (enterprise service bus) offerings.

"Those are areas with lots of overlap," Wang said. "But there's a lot of good technologies on both sides."

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