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Oracle 'A Little Confused': HP Acquisition Target

Most disputes between companies are never heard of, or at best played out via leaks and public relations teams who refuse to go on record.  A war of words between the software giant Oracle and UK group Autonomy, a data analysis software firm that's being taken over by Oracle rival Hewlett Packard, suggests that at Oracle, they have a different way of doing things.

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Mike Lynch, the CEO of Autonomy, has said he never attempted to sell his company to Oracle before doing the deal with HP. The dispute centers on a meeting between Lynch, banker Frank Quattrone and Oracle President Mark Hurd earlier this year.

Oracle claims Lynch came to San Francisco in April to try and convince Oracle to buy his company , but had considered the deal too expensive. And Oracle has released his alleged sales slides on its website to prove he has a "poor memory."

Autonomy hit back with a statement claiming Oracle is "a little confused about the sequence of events." The software company added that the sales slides were prepared by Qatalyst analysts independently for Oracle and that this was "the first time we have seen them."

Autonomy also said that it had not engaged Quattrone's company Qatalyst at that time.

"Autonomy CEO Mike Lynch continues to insist that Autonomy was never ‘shopped’ to Oracle.  But now at least he remembers and admits to meeting with Oracle President Mark Hurd and Doug Kehring, Oracle’s head of M&A, this past April," Oracle said in a statement.

"But CEO Lynch insists that it was a purely technical meeting, limited to a ‘lively discussion of database technologies,'" Oracle goes on. "Interesting, but not true.  The slides Lynch showed Oracle’s Mark Hurd and Doug Kehring were all about Autonomy’s financial results, Autonomy’s stock price history, Autonomy’s Price/Earnings history and Autonomy’s stock market valuation."

During the disputed meeting, Frank Quattrone, a technology-focused investment banker, accompanied Lynch. Lynch had said that Quattrone was not being paid to help him sell the company and simply accompanied him to introduce him to people on the West Coast, something he had done many times.

Oracle sees things differently. "After the sales pitch was over, Oracle refused to make an offer because Autonomy’s current market value of $6 billion was way too high," the database and business software giant says.

"It may well be that investment banks were independently recommending Autonomy as an acquisition target to industry players – that is standard practice - but this would not have been at our behest," Autonomy said.

"Qatalyst have informed us that the slides Oracle has recently posted on its website were prepared and sent independently by Qatalyst to Oracle on 26 January (the content is clearly from January)... Autonomy was not involved in this nor was Qatalyst engaged by Autonomy until mid-year. Autonomy did not present these slides in the meeting."