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Calif. retirement fund tenders PeopleSoft shares

Calpers joins group of big PeopleSoft investors backing a $9.2 billion Oracle buyout.

Calpers, a large U.S. pension fund, has joined a growing list of big investors supporting Oracle in its hostile buyout--at $9.2 billion--of rival PeopleSoft.

The California Public Employees' Retirement System has agreed to offer all 1.5 million shares of PeopleSoft to Oracle at the $24 per-share price, the group said on Thursday. Calpers' stake in PeopleSoft equals less than half of 1 percent of outstanding shares in the software company, but the pension fund is influential and its decision could sway other investors.

Oracle's offer expires at 9 p.m. PST on Friday. The software firm, which has reset the offer's expiration date numerous times during its 17-month pursuit of the deal, insists that it will abandon the offer if investors bring less than half of PeopleSoft's outstanding shares to the table.

With the Friday deadline looming, the battle for the hearts of PeopleSoft shareholders has intensified. Capital Guardian Trust, which owns 10.2 percent of PeopleSoft, said on Tuesday that it would tender its shares to Oracle, while Private Capital Management said it's holding on to its 9.3 percent stake. PeopleSoft and Oracle are lobbying shareholders aggressively, with PeopleSoft arguing it's worth much more than Oracle's offer and Oracle saying PeopleSoft, left to its own devices, is headed for trouble.

This latest wrestling match between the companies could be the endgame in the dramatic takeover saga, in which Oracle has overcome numerous odds, most notably an antitrust suit from the U.S. Department of Justice. If Oracle walks away with a minority of shares on Friday evening, the fight is likely over for good.

If enough shareholders accept the Oracle bid, the battle could continue into next year because of an antitakeover provision that protects PeopleSoft from hostile bidders. The final duel may come next March, when a proxy battle for control of PeopleSoft's board could play out at the company's annual shareholder meeting.