European Commission restarts clock on Oracle-Peoplesoft

The European Commission has restarted its investigation into Oracle Corp.’s hostile bid to acquire PeopleSoft Inc. and will issue its judgement by early November at the latest, it said on Thursday.

A spokeswoman for Competition Commissioner Mario Monti said that the inquiry had restarted after Oracle had “substantially complied” with the Commission’s request for the additional information it needs to examine the merger.

A deadline of Nov. 9 has been set for the decision but, given Monti’s desire to conclude the case before he steps down from his post on Nov. 1, it seems likely that the Commission will annouce its decision earlier, possibly on Oct. 26.

Monti is expected to clear the merger, since investigations which result in deals being blocked generally take longer to conclude than the one-month deadline that the Commission has set.

The investigation was put on hold in April after the Commission decided it needed more information, particularly relating to billing data, from Oracle.

Oracle’s chances of succeeding with the deal, which at one time seemed highly unlikely, have improved of late. The U.S. Department of Justice said at the start of the month that it won’t appeal a federal court ruling rejecting its efforts to block the merger on competition grounds.

Perhaps more significantly, PeopleSoft last week fired its chief executive officer, Craig Conway, who had been adamantly opposed to a merger. PeopleSoft Director Steven Goldby testified in court this week that he would be open to discussions with Oracle if the price were right. Oracle must also win support from PeopleSoft’s shareholders.

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