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EU approves Oracle-Siebel merger

With the last major antitrust hurdle cleared, the deal now awaits SEC approval. First-quarter closing expected.

European Commission officials gave their blessing Thursday to Oracle's $5.8 billion merger with Siebel Systems, removing the last major antitrust hurdle for the enterprise software companies.

The European Commission declined to challenge Oracle's megamerger with Siebel Systems, a move that had been anticipated by industry watchers.

"After examining the operation carefully, the Commission concluded that the transaction would not significantly impede effective competition...and has therefore approved the concentration," the commission said in a statement.

The Commission noted that the only area the two enterprise software vendors face overlap is in customer relationship management (CRM) software, a fragmented market, according to the commission's statement.

"The Commission also examined possible conglomerate effects," the EC stated. "Widely-used open standards make it unlikely that the merged entity would impose restrictions on newly acquired Siebel's CRM customers, as regards to their use of non-Oracle databases."

The green light from European antitrust regulators stands in stark contrast to their response to Oracle's acquisition of another archrival, PeopleSoft. Both the EC and the U.S. Department of Justice raised concerns about the takeover when it was proposed. After 18 months of hostile maneuvering to acquire PeopleSoft, however, Oracle ultimately prevailed.

With its last antitrust hurdle cleared in the Siebel deal, Oracle now awaits approval from the Securities and Exchange Commission. Oracle executives previously indicated they expected the merger to close in the first quarter, as early as mid-January.

"We are very pleased with the commission's decision and believe we are on track to complete this merger and begin serving our combined customer base in the first quarter of '06, as scheduled," Oracle spokesman Bob Wynne said in a statement.

Despite generating less controversy than the PeopleSoft deal, Oracle's pending acquisition of Siebel has not been without drama.

Oracle executives at one point were in buyout discussions with Siebel while also trying to land the PeopleSoft deal.

And the DOJ, which lost its court challenge in the PeopleSoft case, expressed a desire to take a more in-depth look at the Siebel merger, before ultimately allowing it to proceed.