Ellison talks acquisitions, mocks PeopleSoft's Conway

Ellison talks acquisitions, mocks PeopleSoft's Conway

Oracle executives have repeated that more takeovers could follow the company's bid for PeopleSoft. At the same time, mudslinging between Oracle and PeopleSoft has continued, even though Oracle described itself as a "generally friendly" company.

"We'd be interested in buying almost anything," Oracle chairman and chief executive officer, Larry Ellison, said at a meeting with financial analysts at his company's Californian headquarters.

That is if the price was right, and "almost anything" did have its exclusions, Ellison said.

Oracle won't buy Ariba or CommerceOne, vendors of online marketplaces.

Also, Oracle looked at buying Legato Systems, but didn't because it felt it could not win from Veritas Software in storage management software space, he said.

Data storage vendor EMC this week announced a deal to buy Legato in a stock transaction valued at $US1.3 billion. Clues on where Oracle could strike came from executive vice-presidents, Safra Catz and Chuck Phillips, who spoke to the analysts just before Ellison.

Phillips two weeks ago hinted that Oracle may do some more shopping.

On the database side of its business, Oracle is interested in technologies that will help users reduce cost and fit with its strategy of getting more information into a database, while on the applications side Oracle wants to move further into verticals such as healthcare and retail, Catz said.

Also, there were new markets that Oracle would like to get into, Phillips said, without providing any more detail. Phillips was recruited to Oracle, recently, after years on Wall Street as an analyst covering enterprise software.

He is one of the main forces behind Oracle's bid for PeopleSoft.

"We generate a tremendous amount of cash and we have been using that cash to buy back our stock," Ellison said. We could have been using that money for acquisitions."

Oracle prefers friendly acquisitions whereby the takeover target agrees to be bought, instead of a prey resisting to be devoured, Catz said.

"Our preference is to do something friendly, but friendliness was not going to be a possibility here. Our hopes are that all our deals are friendly," she said.

Ellison vowed to continue to pursue PeopleSoft, even if it took a year to get the deal done, and said that the vendor could not survive on its own in a consolidating enterprise software market.

"It is going to get very, very tough out there and they are just not big enough company, a strong enough company to be competitive," he said. Oracle launched a $US5.1 billion hostile takeover bid for PeopleSoft in early June, days after PeopleSoft said it would buy J.D. Edwards & Co. Oracle later sweetened its bid to $US6.3 billion.

Fielding questions from the financial analysts, Ellison, Phillips and Catz, mostly repeated the arguments Oracle has made in favour of the PeopleSoft bid.

Ellison came out strongly once more against PeopleSoft CEO Craig Conway's defensive reaction to the bid.

"At one point Craigy (Conway) thought I was going to shoot his dog," Ellison said. "I love animals. If Craigy and (his dog) were standing next to each other and, trust me, I had one bullet it wouldn't be for the dog."

Ellison's comment was apparently related to quotes attributed to Conway shortly after Oracle launched its bid for PeopleSoft.

"It's like me asking if I could buy your dog so I can go out back and shoot it," Conway was quoted as saying.

Besides the CEOs battling each other in the press, the companies are also fighting in courts and advertisements.

Oracle has said it would not actively market PeopleSoft products after successfully acquiring the company, but that it would support the applications.

PeopleSoft sees an acquisition by Oracle as the end of its products and fiercely opposes Oracle's bid.

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