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April 14, 2005

SAP and Oracle: never say never

For some questions there is no right answer, and SAP CEO Henning Kagermann has just been on the receiving end of one when he was asked whether he would talk to arch rival Oracle's Larry Ellison about a merger.

By CBR Staff Writer

In an interview with the weekly German business publication Wirtschaftswoche, Kagermann was reportedly asked whether he would listen if Ellison telephoned him with the idea. Why should I hang up? I would listen to him, Kagermann was reported as saying, adding, independence is not an end in itself.

However, it would be unwise to read too much into the comments, not only because of another comment he made that some combinations are harder to imagine than others, but also because the company has a legal obligation to consider any merger proposal that might be in the best interests of staff and shareholders, as was the case with Microsoft’s approach to his company last year.

SAP is more likely to be an acquirer than acquired, with an acquisition strategy driven by the need to fill gaps in its application portfolio and technology landscape, and a desire to widen the gap between itself and Oracle that narrowed following Oracle’s purchase of PeopleSoft. Although it lost out to Oracle during the recent bid for retail specialist Retek, the company said it has a shortlist of potential acquisition candidates.

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