SAP Plans To Buy OutlookSoft

Business software maker SAP AG announced plans Tuesday to buy OutlookSoft Corp. and its line of technology products tailored for budgeting and financial forecasts, the latest development in SAP's duel with Oracle Corp.

The deal follows Oracle's recently completed $3.3 billion acquisition of Hyperion Solutions Corp., a maker of so-called "business intelligence" software that delves into some of the same areas covered by OutlookSoft's products.

Walldorf, Germany-based SAP isn't spending considerably less to snap up privately held OutlookSoft. Although financial terms weren't released Tuesday, Forrester Research analyst Paul Hammerman estimated the price at about $200 million.

Formed in 1999, Stamford, Conn.-based OutlookSoft has about 700 customers and 250 employees, most of whom are expected to join SAP after the acquisition closes in June.

Tuesday's deal is the latest to illustrate the contrasting approaches of SAP and Oracle as they wrestle for corporate customers, schools and government agencies who rely on software applications that automate a wide range of administrative tasks.

Redwood Shores-based Oracle has emerged as a more formidable threat to SAP by spending about $25 billion on 30 different acquisitions during the past 2 1/2 years.

Meanwhile, SAP has focused on luring away customers alienated by Oracle's aggressive expansion while also trying to supplement its product line with smaller, "tuck-in" acquisitions of niche players like OutlookSoft.

In a sign of the increasing acrimony between the two companies, Oracle has accused SAP of resorting to dirty tricks to steal its customers. In a federal lawsuit filed in March, Oracle alleged an SAP subsidiary has been improperly hacking into its computers to swipe information about copyrighted software. SAP has denied the allegations.

Hammerman believes SAP's interest in OutlookSoft probably intensified after Oracle bought Hyperion and another software maker, Business Objects SA, announced its plans last month to buy Cartesis SA for $300 million. Cartesis competes with OutlookSoft.

"With all the movement in this space, SAP was under the gun to fill this gap in its lineup," Hammerman said.

SAP has been building up its line of financial planning software for the past two years, said Doug Merritt, the company's head of business user development. By adding OutlookSoft, "we will have the most disruptive and defining" suite in the industry," Merritt said.

The OutlookSoft acquisition also adds another longtime Oracle foe to SAP's team. OutlookSoft has been run for the past two years by Phil Wilmington, a former PeopleSoft Inc. executive who participated in an unsuccessful effort to prevent that software maker from being taken over by Oracle. SAP's Merritt also worked at PeopleSoft before Oracle seized control.