SAP’s ‘dilutive’ deal and larger M&A implications

by Brenon Daly, China Martens

The jury’s decision to order SAP to pay $1.3bn to Oracle for stealing software and support material stands as the largest award for the theft of IP in the software industry. (As one banker deadpanned: “I think the TomorrowNow acquisition is dilutive.”) But the implications of the three-week trial extend far beyond the monetary settlement, as whopping as it is. From our perspective, the key part of the courtroom drama has been just how deeply the pair has relied on M&A to radically overhaul their businesses.

A half-decade ago, SAP figured that one of the easiest ways to hurt Oracle was to spend $10m for TomorrowNow (TN). Back in January 2005, the rationale for the TN deal made sense: buy a way of potentially siphoning off some of the rich maintenance stream that Oracle collects for supporting its ERP and CRM software. That was a key concern for SAP at the time, because it was still primarily hawking rival ERP and CRM products. The German giant had largely stayed out of the M&A market, preferring just to acquire small pieces of technology.

That changed dramatically three years ago, when SAP reached for Business Objects – its first major move beyond its core market. It stretched even further this summer with the $5.8bn purchase of Sybase. That acquisition brought SAP into several emerging markets, including mobile applications and some very promising in-memory analytics technology. The deal also represented a long-term shot at Oracle, as SAP now has a database to sell against Oracle rather than simply standing back and watching most of its ERP and CRM software run on Oracle, which has roughly half the database market.

If anything, Oracle has changed itself even more dramatically since then through acquisitions. It certainly has done a lot of them, announcing some 66 deals valued at a total of more than $30bn since SAP announced its tiny pickup of TN. Oracle has consolidated broad swaths of the software industry, including CRM, product lifecycle management, middleware, content management, as well as making a push into a handful of key vertical markets. Add to that Oracle is now in the hardware business, selling servers and storage along with other new businesses it picked up with its purchase of Sun Microsystems.