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By | Joe Fay 25th October 2007 17:09

BEA will talk to anyone for $8.3bn

We've already established what you are, now we're just working out a price

BEA blinked this morning and said it would enter takeover negotiations with Oracle, and anyone else that’s interested, at a floor of $21 per share.

The middleware vendor rebuffed Oracle’s overtures earlier this week, saying it was “worth significantly more than $17 [per share] to Oracle, to others, and most importantly to BEA shareholders".

BEA’s board restated its vigorous objection to Oracle’s initial price this morning, but said it would authorise negotiations with Oracle and other bidders at a price of $21 per share – or around $8.15bn for the company. It's currently trading at $17.7.

BEA has authorised its legal counsel, to “deliver today to any such third parties a draft merger agreement that it is prepared to sign that will be in customary form and provide for an appropriately high degree of certainty of closing”.

All eyes will be on Oracle now to see if it’s ready to add another $4 per share to its offer. It had threatened to drop its $17 per share offer by this Sunday if BEA didn’t start talking

All those references to other third parties and a straightforward sale process make it clear BEA has not just put itself on the block for Oracle, but is fluttering its lashes and pouting at anyone within grabbing distance. Would it like to see a bidding war? Without a doubt.

Whether anyone will rescue it from Oracle’s clutches is another matter. AP reports that German giant SAP has ruled itself out of the bidding, while HP and IBM are keeping schtum. Still, middleware vendors don’t grow on trees, so it's possible that BEA shareholders may be celebrating more than Thanksgiving in the next few months. ®

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