DOJ sues to block Oracle’s PeopleSoft takeover

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a lawsuit Thursday to block Oracle Corp.’s attempted hostile takeover of PeopleSoft Inc.

If the combination took place, it would eliminate competition between two top providers of enterprise software, resulting in higher prices and fewer choices for customers, the DOJ said. The agency said it sees Oracle, PeopleSoft and SAP AG as the only companies that sell enterprise applications that meet the needs of large organizations.

The Attorneys General of Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, North Dakota and Texas are joining the DOJ’s lawsuit.

Oracle said late Thursday it will “vigorously challenge” the DOJ’s lawsuit seeking to block the company’s attempted takeover. It also said it will withdraw the slate of nominees it put forward for election to PeopleSoft’s board at the company’s upcoming shareholder meeting.

The DOJ indicated earlier this month that it was likely to object to the deal, and Oracle’s decision to battle the agency in court came as no surprise to many. Its move to drop its push for seats on PeopleSoft’s board was a more unexpected twist. PeopleSoft and Oracle had already begun a heated exchange of appeals to PeopleSoft’s shareholders to draw support for their respective nominees. Oracle said it is withdrawing the slate because it expects litigation over the deal to extend beyond March 25, when the shareholders’ meeting will take place.

Had Oracle succeeded in seeding PeopleSoft’s board with its nominees, those directors could have dropped PeopleSoft’s anti-takeover protections and encouraged shareholders to support the acquisition.

Oracle also extended for the seventh time the expiration date on its tender offer to PeopleSoft’s shareholders, which it initiated in June. The US$9.4 billion offer will now expire on June 25, at midnight Eastern time, an extension of the offer’s earlier March 12 expiration.

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