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Oracle books an e-ticket for $35 million

The Redwood Shores-based business software maker says it's buying E-Travel, an online corporate travel management service, for $35 million in cash.

Oracle has booked itself a new trip.

The Redwood Shores-based business software maker today said it's buying E-Travel, an online corporate travel management service, for $35 million in cash.

E-Travel, which makes software that allows customers make their own travel reservations over the Web, will become a separate business unit within Oracle, maintaining its current management.

Through the deal, Oracle plans to integrate E-Travel's flagship product, called E-Travel System, with its own travel reimbursement software, called Oracle Self-Service Expenses, as well as with the Oracle Business Intelligence System.

Using the integrated product, clients will be able to tie front-end reservation information to back-end travel information, such as employee expense reports, the companies said.

Oracle also plans to change the product's name to Oracle eTravel, and market it as a standalone product that can be bundled with Oracle applications.

Travel applications are just one way Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) vendors Oracle, SAP and others are trying to expand their reach by selling new applications to all types of business users, analysts said.

"All of the sudden a non-ERP user can use this travel application," said AMR Research analyst Dave Caruso. "This, to me, is a really great foray in the battle for the desktop."

Employees can use E-Travel's software to plan and book corporate travel via a Web browser--saving a company money by cutting brokerage fees. The system, distributed to corporations via travel agencies, also allows a company to set and enforce travel policies, create electronic approval systems, and quickly communicate with suppliers.

E-travel, which hosts the application for customers, charges a minimum of $5,000 for up to 1,000 users per month and transaction rates of between $2.50 and $3.50, depending on the number of users.

Oracle plans to implement Oracle eTravel internally by April to provide self-service booking to its 20,000 employees throughout North America.

Gary Bloom, a vice president in Oracle's systems products division, said the company is expecting to save millions through tighter control of travel expenses and better policy enforcement.

E-Travel System is currently distributed by 12 of the largest corporate travel agencies, including Carlson Wagonlit Travel. The company has about 200 customers, including Coca-Cola, Fidelity Investments, First USA Bank One, and Philip Morris Management.

E-Travel was co-founded in 1995 by chief executive John Ackermann, a member of the SABRE development team that pioneered travel agency automation in the mid-1970s. The privately held firm employs 50 people.