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Oracle appeals to PeopleSoft customers, again

After some slow summer weeks, Oracle is once again trying to drum up support for its PeopleSoft takeover plan. It once again tried to allay customer fears in an online meeting.

In its second online "town meeting" aimed at getting customers to back its acquisition attempt, Oracle Corp. once again pledged to continue support of PeopleSoft Inc. products, should its hostile takeover bid prove successful.

Answering selected e-mail questions from uneasy customers of the Pleasanton, Calif., software vendor, Oracle executive vice presidents Chuck Phillips and Mike Rocha vowed that the company is committed to the acquisition and that it would not shut down PeopleSoft products.

"We'll treat the PeopleSoft product line just like the Oracle product line," Rocha said. In addition to continued support, PeopleSoft customers would have 24/7 online access to Redwood Shores, Calif.-based Oracle's worldwide support network of engineers and would benefit from 1,500 engineers in the field offering customer care, Rocha and Phillips pledged.

"These sorts of acquisitions are about keeping customers, and if you don't support the customers, you don't keep them," Rocha said.

He added that PeopleSoft support teams would remain in place following the proposed acquisition and that the combined company would follow the Oracle support model. The executives said it was too early to determine how many PeopleSoft support teams would move over to the combined company.

The same service plan would presumably exist for customers of J.D. Edwards and Co., Denver, which was acquired by PeopleSoft last month. PeopleSoft purchased all the remaining shares of J.D. Edwards on Aug. 29 at a price of roughly $1.8 billion. Phillips, however, said it's tough to speculate on J.D. Edwards product plans until PeopleSoft makes them public.

Later today, PeopleSoft is expected to brief analysts on its J.D. Edwards road map. A report in today's Wall Street Journal said that PeopleSoft may cut as many as 1,300 jobs as a result of its J.D. Edwards acquisition.

Phillips added that Oracle would be required to honor contracted maintenance fees and that market competition would keep subsequent maintenance fees in line with current costs.

Much like the first online town meeting July 17, many of the selected questions centered on Oracle's experience integrating and supporting the RDB database, which it purchased from Digital Equipment Corp. in 1994. While PeopleSoft would be an applications acquisition, the same principles apply, Phillips said.

"We've done this before," Rocha said. "The first thing we're doing, and we're doing it today, is to reach out to customers at this stage of the transaction. We'll keep the advisory boards running."

Rocha and Phillips also promised that Oracle would continue to support non-Oracle databases that PeopleSoft customers are currently using, although 65% of PeopleSoft customers have an Oracle database, they said. They also said Oracle would support PeopleSoft Version 7 longer than the December deadline PeopleSoft has set.

The takeover attempt figures to see more attention in the coming weeks than it's received since Oracle first announced it in early June. Oracle is hosting OracleWorld, from Sept. 8 to 11, in San Francisco, and the PeopleSoft Connect users conference takes place the following week, from Sept. 14 to 16, in Anaheim, Calif. Oracle said its executives have not been allowed into PeopleSoft Connect but that it will have representatives in the area to speak with PeopleSoft customers.

Oracle has set a deadline of Sept. 19 for PeopleSoft investors to tender their shares, but the company is likely to extend that cutoff date as it waits for federal antitrust investigators to weigh in on its proposed takeover.


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