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ORACLE BEA: Chuang Rejects Oracle's Hostile Bid

Can BEA run and hide?

(October 19, 2007) - It's unclear where BEA is going to run and hide to avoid a shotgun wedding, but its board late Friday rejected Oracle's $6.66 billion marriage proposal.

In a letter to Oracle that the board made public it expressed irritation that Oracle had made its wooing known and rated Oracle's $17-a-share offer as undervalued, a position that the board found reinforced by the fact that the stock was bid up over Oracle's offer price Friday once the market realized that Oracle was making a hostile run at BEA.

Evidently BEA failed to turn up at a rendezvous. Oracle says BEA had agreed to meet at 10 o'clock Pacific time Friday morning to work out a definitive agreement by Monday, but cancelled it late Thursday night and "refused to reschedule."

BEA's board told Oracle it was getting ahead of itself and that the BEA board had not agreed to meet with Oracle Friday morning "to commence a process and we did not agree to your proposal that the process result in definite agreement by Monday," adding coyly that "We did not say there is 'no process' with Oracle that would result in friendly deal." However, it suggested that it would be worth more to others.

To which Oracle, which is promising to remain "friendly" if it gets what it wants quickly, asked, "Whether there was any process that BEA would prefer to follow to move towards a friendly transaction and was told that BEA had no such process in mind."

According to the Wall Street Journal, BEA passed on the meeting because Oracle asked it to bring what BEA figured was way too much information about its business along with it – presumably the kind that's reflected in the price bid.

All of which explains why Oracle went public with its offer Friday morning and why Oracle claims to be committed to its price, which it now describes as a 40% premium over BEA's share price in mid-August before Carl Icahn waded in.

If BEA hopes for a white knight it can apparently scratch out SAP's name. SAP, which just announced a deal to acquire Business Objects for $6.8 billion, told the Financial Times it's not interested in BEA because of the overlap, though SAP CEO Henning Kagermann also told the paper SAP could make other big acquisitions. What he could possibly have in mind is unclear.

Icahn, who is trying to drive the sales price up as far as it can go, has offered HP and IBM as possible alternatives. IBM of course would seem to have an antitrust issue and HP, like SAP, has said it's not interested, but that doesn't mean it's true.

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