Strike another item off Oracle Corp.’s shopping list. Three years ago, an internal document from the software group surfaced in court. It listed eight rivals Oracle wanted to acquire. Three have already lost their independence. Arch rival SAP AG agreed just this week to buy another company on the list, Business Objects. Now, Oracle’s $6.7 billion (Rs26,351 crore) bid for BEA Systems will shrink the number further.
Oracle has shown that software acquisitions can pay off— it’s made more than 35 in the past three years—solidly boosting its earnings and stock price. At the offered price for BEA, Oracle would pay around $5.7 billion for the business software maker after taking into account cash on its books. If it cuts administrative costs in half while leaving R&D untouched, this would result in just under $300 million of synergies. The company is expected to earn a similar amount in operating profit this year. Add it all up, and Oracle gets about a 7% return on its investment—which is probably the cost of financing the bid. Throw in extra sales stripped from competitors due to Oracle’s growing heft, and the potential return looks even more attractive.
Of course, Oracle may need to raise its unsolicited bid. BEA stock is already trading 7% above Oracle’s bid of $17 per share and BEA’s board has said the bid is too. Several other companies, such as IBM and SAP, may be interested in spoiling Oracle’s plans, even if the latter is tied up with Business Objects, its first big M&A deal ever. Regardless, BEA’s days as a stand-alone look numbered.
As do the days of the other companies on Oracle’s list. Only three targets—Cerner, Lawson and Sybase—remain independent. With activist fund manager Sandell Asset Management now pressuring Sybase management to consider a sale, it’s hard not to see the list narrowing even further.