PracticeConsultingThere’s no rest for the wicked

There's no rest for the wicked

The New Year hangovers had barely settled before the accounting software providers set the ball rolling with market consolidation and acquisitions. In fact, if you threw in a death and a marriage then it was almost like the Christmas episode of EastEnders.

Sage has done exactly what it said in its year-end statement and continued the consolidation trend. Don’t expect its latest purchase, ACCPAC, to be the last thing in its shopping basket either. After Sage MD Paul Stobart’s comments about its ‘gorilla-like competitors’ (Microsoft and SAP), it’s likely that the fun has just started.

Much will also be expected of Sage’s two new divisions dealing with SME business and mid-market growth in 2004.

The purchase of Cartesis by venture capitalists, led by Apax Partners, seems shrewd business. Free of its links with PwC, the financial software provider now has access to one-half of Fortune 500 companies that were previously off-limits due to Sarbanes-Oxley.

No sooner do you catch your breath, than Oracle knocks on PeopleSoft’s door again. This time, Oracle has secured an extra $1.5bn of credit from a number of banks in an attempt to finally complete the protracted takeover of its rival. This has maintained the pressure on PeopleSoft, although Oracle itself has yet to receive a thumbs-up for the takeover from both the US Department of Justice and the European Commission.

PeopleSoft has so far outfoxed Larry Ellison and co. every step of the way. If PeopleSoft’s share price continues to climb, as it has since the battle began, then Oracle’s next offer may still fall too short to persuade its target shareholders to sell out.

As PeopleSoft clients nervously await the final outcome, market leader SAP continues to keep its distance from the whole affair and gets on with the process of running its own business.

Analysts have suggested that SAP’s current software rationalisation is an investment that will benefit the German software company in the long term. It seems doubtful that the Oracle/PeopleSoft fight will do either of them any good during the same period.

However, don’t take your eyes off the IT soap opera, the juiciest bits are yet to come.

Kevin Reed is staff writer of Accountancy Age

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