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The European Commission is poised to clear Oracle Corp.’s $7.7 billion hostile takeover bid for PeopleSoft Inc., a person familiar with the situation said Friday, as the predator extended its tender offer a 12th time. The change of heart since the Commission first began vetting the merger nearly a year ago follows a recent U.S. court decision rejecting the U.S. Department of Justice’s argument for blocking the bid, a line of reasoning which closely mirrored the EU’s initial objections. The Justice Department has 60 days from the time of the ruling to appeal the decision. The DOJ won’t likely decide for a few weeks, sources said, though it is expected to appeal because letting the ruling stand could impede its ability to block future mergers in the high-tech sector. The decision to appeal is in the hands of DOJ Assistant Attorney General R. Hewitt Pate, who will make a recommendation to acting solicitor general Paul D. Clement, who ultimately decides but usually defers to the AG in an appeal. Back in Europe, a commission spokeswoman declined to comment, only saying that regulators hope to restart the clock soon on their suspended in-depth investigation into Oracle’s acquisition of the Pleasanton, Calif., business software company. The commission stopped the clock on its probe twice, most recently in April, to collect additional information on the human resources and financial management software markets. Competition Commissioner Mario Monti “would like to take a decision before his mandate ends,” preferring to clear the decks before the scheduled takeover of successor Neelie Kroes in November, Commission spokeswoman Amelia Torres said. Regulators are not yet ready to reopen the probe, however. “We’ve been in contact with Oracle with a view to obtaining some information that is still missing,” Torres said. “We hope we’ll be getting that soon.” The deal was first notified to EU regulators in October 2003. The last probe halt came after Oracle itself argued at an oral hearing that the information was relevant to the commission’s final decision and conveniently missed a preliminary deadline for providing the data, thereby forcing the commission to suspend its probe indefinitely. In opening its in-depth investigation into the deal last November, the commission said it was worried about the potential reduction in companies in this segment from three to two. But it appears that the commission has now retreated in the wake of a recent U.S. court decision rejecting the U.S. Department of Justice’s argument for blocking the bid, which closely mirrored the EU’s initial objections. On Thursday, Redwood Shores, Calif.-based Oracle said it had extended its offer for PeopleSoft again, now until Oct. 8. Oracle said in a statement that about 23.8 million PeopleSoft shares have been tendered and not withdrawn in its $21 a share offer. This figure represents about 6.5 percent of PeopleSoft’s outstanding shares and means some shares have been withdrawn from the last time Oracle’s offer was extended, on Sept. 9, when it had about 7 percent of the shares. Jaret Seiberg in Washington contributed to this report. Copyright �2004 TDD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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