Australian customers meeting with Siebel over Oracle deal

Australian customers were today digesting the implications of last night's widely-predicted AU$7.6 billion acquisition of customer relationship management vendor Siebel Systems by Oracle.

Australian customers were today digesting the implications of last night's widely-predicted AU$7.6 billion acquisition of customer relationship management vendor Siebel Systems by Oracle.

Information technology executives at some of the country's most prominent business and public-sector organisations were drawing up lists of questions and scheduling meetings with their contacts at the vendors shortly after they arrived at work this morning to be greeted with the news.

The Australian Taxation Office said it was reviewing the deal and any ramifications for its ongoing implementation of a Siebel platform as part of its AU$450 million change program. A more detailed statement on the issue is expected to be made tomorrow.

Telstra search and directory subsidiary Sensis -- which runs Siebel 6.3 in support of print sales, Siebel 7.7 for go-to-market campaign planning for print and online sales and the OnDemand hosted suite for government accounts -- was more positive about the move.

Chris Stevens, chief information officer, pointed out that Sensis was also a "fairly extensive" user of Oracle software, as well as Siebel.

"Both are solid players, and both have valid product lines. They are two products that are very important to Sensis."

With both products coming under the ownership of one vendor, the integration possibilities could be of great benefit, according to Stevens.

"It will give us greater choice and leverage in the future," he said. "It may provide enhanced capabilities, and increase our potential to scale those capabilities."

He said he was not concerned about vendor lock-in.

"There's still multiple choices in the industry. It's not like there's only one vendor in that space," he said, adding that he didn't expect licensing terms for Siebel software to change in the near future.

Sensis will soon meet Siebel to discuss the ramifications of the deal.

"The account contacts from Siebel remain intact. In the next week or two we'll meet and talk about the implications of the move so we've got a clearer context for our business."

The Commonwealth Bank of Australia -- whose Internet banking system operates on a Siebel platform -- is believed to have scheduled a meeting with the acquisition target tomorrow to discuss its outlook.

A CBA spokesperson told ZDNet Australia  "we have a good relationship with both Oracle and Siebel and we will be talking to them about our ongoing relationship".

The purchase -- subject to approval by Siebel shareholders and regulators -- is expected to close next year and comes after Oracle bedded down its acquisition of rival enterprise resource planning software vendor PeopleSoft.

Oracle last night described the Siebel software as the "centrepiece" of its customer relationship strategy moving forward and said it would continue supporting the product line for a number of years.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission -- which approved the PeopleSoft acquisition locally after an extensive investigation -- said it was "too early to tell" whether Oracle's latest move would be scrutinised.

ACCC commissioner Stephen King told ZDNet Australia  the planned transaction would come onto the watchdog's radar as part of normal market inquiry processes over the next couple of weeks.

Gartner research vice-president Kristian Steenstrup said Siebel customers in Australia and New Zealand could benefit from the acquisition as Oracle had a more significant presence in the region than its target.

These would primarily be derived from Oracle's larger sales force and customer support operations.

While Oracle derived almost one-fifth of its annual revenue from the Asia-Pacific, Siebel's sales in this region contribute only five percent of its global revenue.

While Siebel had been a consistent performer in the region, Steenstrup said, it had struggled to penetrate the mid-market.

"And obviously that's important in a country [the size of] Australia," he said.

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