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This week in merger news

This week saw three merger deals worth about $60 billion--including one that ranks as the largest software merger in history.

A corporate holiday shopping spree on steroids this week yielded three merger deals worth about $60 billion--including one that ranks as the largest software merger in history.

PeopleSoft kicked off the merger mania by giving its surprise approval to a takeover deal with Oracle worth about $10.3 billion, ending a bitter battle. PeopleSoft's board agreed to a deal valuing PeopleSoft at $26.50 per share, higher than Oracle's "final bid" of $24.

The 18-month hostile battle for PeopleSoft came to an end with a single phone call. Oracle President Chuck Phillips told CNET that a PeopleSoft director, through an attorney, contacted Oracle with the lucky number: $26.50 per share, the price it would take to buy the software maker.

"Friday evening, an independent director, through an attorney, reached out to us," Phillips said. "It was the same director that said PeopleSoft would be open to a higher price than $24 and communicated to us the exact number."

The terse communication was the first time the two companies had negotiated directly on share price since Oracle began its hostile takeover bid in June 2003, according to people close to the deal.

Microsoft, however, is trying to get a piece of the PeopleSoft pie. A top executive at the software giant warned PeopleSoft customers that they might want to think about a technology shift, now that Oracle's acquisition has been approved.

"Oracle's acquisition of PeopleSoft may be moving forward, but difficult technology decisions lie ahead," Microsoft Vice President Bill Veghte wrote in an e-mail that was seen by CNET "The ongoing challenges of owning and maintaining business applications remain unchanged."

The deal was nearly overshadowed by the second major acquisition in the enterprise software market--the largest ever in the software sector.

In a long-rumored move, security software maker Symantec said it will buy storage specialist Veritas Software in a deal worth roughly $13.5 billion. The company will operate under the Symantec name, with John Thompson, Symantec's chief executive, serving as chairman and CEO.

The combined company is expected to generate some $5 billion in revenue within the next year or so, putting it on the map with other megasize software powers, such as Microsoft, Oracle and SAP.

John Thompson
CEO, Symantec

Thompson stressed that the merger was not an idea borne out of a desire to grow the business while cutting costs. Thompson sat down with CNET to discuss his thoughts on the merger and the future of Symantec.

The telecommunications industry got in on the fun when Sprint announced that it would buy Nextel Communications in a $35 billion deal that will create a wireless behemoth.

The deal combines the No. 3 and No. 5 players in the market, and will produce a company with about 40 million customers, including those through affiliates.