Ellison talks acquisitions, mocks Conway

Oracle Corp. executives recently said that more takeovers could follow the company’s bid for PeopleSoft Inc. At the same time, mudslinging between Oracle and PeopleSoft continued.

“We’d be interested in buying almost anything,” Oracle chairman and CEO Larry Ellison said at a meeting with financial analysts at his company’s Redwood Shores, Calif. headquarters.

That is if the price is right, and “almost anything” does have its exclusions, Ellison said. Oracle won’t buy Ariba Inc. or CommerceOne Inc., online marketplace vendors. Oracle looked at buying Legato Systems Inc., but didn’t because it felt it could not beat Veritas Software Corp. in the storage management software space, he said.

On the database side of its business, Oracle is interested in acquiring 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, said executive vice-president Safra Catz.

Ellison vowed to continue to pursue PeopleSoft, even if it takes a year to get the deal done, and said that the Pleasanton, Calif.-based 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 a big enough company, a strong enough company to be competitive,” he said.

Oracle launched a US$5.1 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 $6.3 billion.

“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 allegedly said.

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.