EU Regulators Wont Save PeopleSoft from Buyout

PeopleSoft shouldn't entertain much hope that the European Commission will save it from Oracle's clutches by disapproving the buyout proposal.

Now that Oracle has defeated the U.S. Department of Justices attempt to permanently block the PeopleSoft buyout, speculation has already begun about whether this decision will encourage the European Union regulators to approve the deal.

The European Commission heard much of the same evidence that U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker heard before he issued his Sept. 9 ruling finding that the government had failed to prove that Oracles $7.7 billion tender offer for PeopleSoft violated federal antitrust law.

Observers have suggested that the European Commission, reviewing much the same evidence, will follow similar legal logic and approve the buyout deal. Even if the European Commission rejects the buyout, the U.S. court decision makes it seem more likely that Oracle would win on appeal.

However, one U.S. lawyer says it is risky to assume that the commission naturally will align its decision with a U.S. court ruling. "The main thing is the definition of marketplace, and the European Commission is going to have a different definition," said Bob Camors, a commercial litigation specialist with Thelen, Reid & Priest LLP, in San Jose, Calif.

Judge Walkers decision, Camors said, is focused on the U.S. market and law. The European Union is going to be looking at how the merger is going to affect competition in the European market and will not necessarily give a lot of weight to U.S. court decision, "Even if it does include findings of fact" that are similar to what has been presented to the European Commission, Camors said.

Another key difference is that SAP has to be regarded as the leading seller of enterprise application software in Europe, with considerably more market share than Oracle has today, Camors said. The European Commission may look at whether an Oracle-PeopleSoft merger will upset the competitive balance in Europe.

/zimages/7/28571.gifClick here to read about Oracles initial reaction to the U.S. District Court Decision that denied the Justice Departments request for a permanent injunction again the PeoleSoft buyout.

But it is hard to see how the EC can ignore the findings of fact and law in the U.S. case.

Judge Walker rejected the Justice Departments argument that the market for "high-end" enterprise application software was limited to Oracle, PeopleSoft and SAP. He cited the testimony of Perry Keating, a vice president of international management consultant BearingPoint, to help explain why he rejected this argument.

Keating testified in the Oracle antitrust trial supporting the government position that the high-end market included Oracle, PeopleSoft and SAP. BearingPoint offered the exact same opinion in a questionnaire prepared for the European Commission. Keating had a hand in preparing BearingPoints responses to the questionnaire.

Walker noted in his decision that, under cross examination, Keating conceded that Microsoft had the ability to push into the enterprise human resources and enterprise resource planning market. "Once the topic turned to the likelihood of entry into the market of vendors other than SAP, Oracle or PeopleSoft, Keatings testimony began to undermine BearingPoints response to the EC," Walker wrote in his decision.

Next Page: Challenging the market definition.

John Pallatto

John Pallatto

John Pallatto has been editor in chief of QuinStreet Inc.'s since October 2012. He has more than 40 years of experience as a professional journalist working at a daily newspaper and...