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Oracle, entering hardware arena, agrees to buy Sun for $7.4B

Ellison said Java, Solaris were main reasons for acquisition

By Elizabeth Montalbano, IDG News Service
April 20, 2009 05:37 PM ET

IDG News Service - Oracle has signed a deal to purchase Sun for $7.4 billion, plunging the enterprise software vendor into the hardware market and making Sun the latest company to be subsumed by the Silicon Valley giant.

Slideshow: Hottest tech M&A deals of 2009

Oracle will pay $9.50 per share in cash for Sun, or $5.6 billion net of Sun's cash and debt, according to Oracle. The move follows Oracle's purchases of a raft of companies in the last few years, including Siebel, PeopleSoft and BEA Systems.

Sun shares rose by $2.41 to $9.10 in trading about a an hour after the market opened, while Oracle shares declined by $1.03 to $18.03. Shares of the buying company in big mergers and acquisitions often sink at first as investors debate the relative merits of laying out large amounts of cash for the acquisition.

The deal comes after Sun reportedly walked away from an offer from IBM a few weeks ago. Though there were rumors Oracle might purchase Sun, it has never before had a hardware or server OS business, a market in which a significant amount of Sun's assets are tied, so the deal seemed unlikely. However, Sun's Solaris long has been a successful platform for Oracle's database business.

The two companies also have areas of common interest in their support for Java software, one of the only areas where the companies' product lines overlap. Sun has an open-source Java application server called Glassfish that Oracle likely will hold onto, although the fate of Sun's other commercial Java software, the Java Enterprise System (JES), is unknown.

Oracle also had overlap in this area when it purchased BEA, but BEA WebLogic had significant installed base, and Oracle kept the product alive. Sun's installed base for JES is smaller, so Oracle may choose not to hold onto it.

Indeed, on a conference call Monday, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison said Java and Solaris were the two main reasons Oracle purchased Sun, a move that is in line with Oracle's acquisition strategy to buy companies with "market-leading products."

Calling Java "the single most important software asset we have ever acquired," he said Oracle's Java-based middleware business, bolstered first by the BEA acquisition and now by the purchase of Sun, is on track to become as large as Oracle's flagship database business. Oracle's Fusion middleware is based on Java.

Oracle also considers Solaris "by far the best Unix technology available in the market," which is why more Oracle databases run on that OS than any other, Ellison said. He said Oracle's enterprise customers running both products will be able to experience new benefits by technical integration of the products.

"We will be able to tightly integrate the Oracle database to some of the unique high-end features of Solaris, engineering them to work together and for the first time to deliver complete, integrated computer systems -- database to disk -- optimized for high performance, improved reliability, enhanced security, easier management and a lower total cost of ownership," Ellison said.

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