DOJ staff opposes Oracle buy of PeopleSoft

The Justice Department's antitrust division has recommended that the department file suit to block Oracle Corp.'s proposed acquisition of PeopleSoft Inc.

The staff recommendation has been submitted to the office of the Assistant Attorney General, according to PeopleSoft officials. The Justice Department is expected to decide by early March whether to block the proposed takeover.

If Justice does block Oracle's takeover attempt on antitrust grounds, it will put an end to a quest that has spanned more than six months. It also would come as a surprise to Oracle's officials, said Oracle spokesman Jim Finn.

"While no decision has yet been made, Oracle believes this merger will eventually be approved," Finn said in a press statement.

Finn blamed PeopleSoft chief executive officer Craig Conway for trying to thwart Oracle. It was Conway, Finn said, who first suggesting merging PeopleSoft's applications with Oracle's -- suggesting that he would be the best person to run such a combined applications business.

Conway never mentioned antitrust concerns, Finn said, until Oracle officials made an offer to PeopleSoft shareholders. "When Oracle countered by proposing to buy PeopleSoft, Conway said that he wouldn't sell at any price," Finn said. "He then began a long and intensive lobbying effort aimed at persuading the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice to block the deal."

PeopleSoft spokesman Steve Swasey declined to comment.

Oracle launched the takeover attempt last June. After first offering $16 a share, Oracle later upped the bid to $19.50 a share, or about $7.3 billion. Earlier this month, Oracle upped its offer yet again, to $26 a share, or about $9.4 billion.

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