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Oracle: DOJ decision by early March

The company expects to hear within weeks of a decision by European regulators whether the U.S. Department of Justice will challenge its bid for PeopleSoft.

Oracle expects to receive final word by early March on whether the U.S. Department of Justice will challenge its hostile bid for PeopleSoft, according to a recent California court filing.

That would put it within weeks of a decision by European antitrust regulators, which have a March 30 deadline. Both agencies must give the deal a green light for Oracle to move forward with its takeover bid.

Oracle, which last month announced it had certified its "substantial compliance" with the DOJ in turning over requested documents and information, updated that information in a filing in Alameda County Superior Court, where it faces a lawsuit brought on by PeopleSoft.

The DOJ staff has yet to interview Oracle Chief Executive Larry Ellison and is continuing to take statements from industry players, said a source familiar with the investigation.

The source noted that the department requested time with Ellison, but no such scheduling has occurred. A representative for Oracle said no comment was immediately available.

The European Commission generally waits until the day of the deadline before it announces its decision, according to a commission representative. But on rare occasions, the agency has issued its decision as early as three weeks before the deadline, the representative noted.

The multistate investigation by state attorneys general continues, with Texas and New York taking the lead and California offering a strong supporting role by handling a sizable portion of the interviews, according to the source. Canada also is continuing its review of the deal, said Tim Weil, a spokesman for the Canadian Competition Bureau.

In the meantime, Oracle is facing a California lawsuit brought on by PeopleSoft, which alleges the database maker engaged in unfair business practices to "destroy its business." Oracle and PeopleSoft shareholders have sued PeopleSoft in the Delaware Chancery Court, seeking to remove PeopleSoft's antitakeover measures.

Oracle, in a filing this week in the California case, said it opposed PeopleSoft's request to give the Alameda County Superior Court the power to determine whether documents and depositions could be taken in the case. Instead, Oracle stated it wanted the power to coordinate such action to remain with the Delaware Chancery Court.

"PeopleSoft has argued to (the Delaware judge) without success that the Delaware and California proceedings should be "decoupled," Oracle stated in its filing. "Oracle believes decoupling is neither necessary nor appropriate at this juncture, particularly when Oracle has provided electronic document discovery to PeopleSoft and PeopleSoft has yet to reciprocate, and trial in Delaware is expected to proceed in early spring."

Oracle is seeking electronic documents from PeopleSoft for the period after June 20, 2003, the filing stated.

The software maker estimated it will be ready for the California trial by January next year, at the earliest.