Blue chips reel from Siebel takeover

Australia's biggest companies are today reeling from shock overnight news that billions of dollars collectively invested into their Siebel CRM platforms now face an uncertain future after a lightening raid by Larry Ellison's Oracle Corporation snared the ailing CRM vendor for $US5.85 billion.

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO), Telstra, Sensis and the National Australia Bank (NAB) are just a few of the household brand names contemplating the massive implications of the takeover, with most organizations saying they were left in the dark until the deal was executed.

During a conference call to announce the acquisition, Oracle chairman and CEO Larry Ellison said his company plans to support the existing suite of Siebel products for "some time to come."

Ellison also indicated Oracle's current, home-spun CRM platform development, part of its massive Project Fusion digestion of the PeopleSoft and JD Edwards platforms, would likely be usurped by the Siebel acquisition.

"Because Siebel is the leader and understands the category, it makes building the Fusion CRM function easier and less risky," he said.

Locally, users are still digesting what the news means for them and seeking urgent briefings from Oracle and Siebel's management, with most organizations saying they had little or no warning the acquisition was coming.

At Telstra's directory and services subsidiary, Sensis, CIO Chris Stevens said there will be no specific changes within Sensis due to the takeover of Siebel by Oracle.

Stevens said it is "probably too early" to cite how the deal may impact Sensis customer operations, but added the company will maintain a "watching brief just to understand emerging plans regarding changes and product capabilities" - and that Siebel representatives had been in touch promptly.

"At this stage there are no specific changes within Sensis - we are investing heavily in Siebel 7.7 for our online sales go-to-market and in weeks will roll that onto print sales. Siebel 6.3 which we use to support sales management remains as is," Stevens said.

Stevens said he hoped Oracle's attempt to span vertical specializations will produce "products offering next-generation capabilities", but hastened to add "it is not in their interest to give notice of acquisition and withdraw."

At the NAB, corporate affairs manager Megan Lane was looking at the scenario as a glass half full, noting the bank is a customer of both Oracle and Siebel. Lane said the bank had been informed of the merger and was currently being briefed by both vendors.

"Obviously we are talking to the account managers involved. We use both [Oracle and Siebel]. We were certainly aware of the news this morning," Lane said.

The Australian Taxation Office is another heavy Siebel deployment, having recently taken the plunge to migrate its case management system onto the application. While Tax Office CIO Bill Gibson was not immediately available for comment, a spokesperson said the ATO's IT team was definitely aware of the situation and would issue a statement shortly.

Other Australian Siebel customers impacted by the merger include AMP Financial Services, Bankers Trust, Deloitte, DHL and Unilever.

On the IT front, both IBM and HP use Siebel systems.

With Nancy Gohring

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More about AMPAustralian Taxation OfficeBankers TrustHISHPIBM AustraliaJD EdwardsNABNational Australia BankOraclePeopleSoftSiebel SystemsTelstra CorporationUnileverUnilever

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