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Oracle to take on SAP in public sector with latest buy

Oracle's latest acquisition could set the stage for future battles with SAP, according to one analyst.

It's SAP vs. Oracle in the public sector, now that Oracle wants more customers in the public sector and utilities markets.

The database and business applications giant announced today that it has acquired SPL WorldGroup Inc., a seller of revenue and operations management software for the utilities industry. Oracle didn't say how much it paid for the San Francisco-based firm, which also makes tax management software for government organizations. And the SAP vs. Oracle battle rages on.

Ray Wang, a business applications analyst with Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research, says the latest buy is part of Oracle's plan to get closer to markets where competition among software vendors is beginning to heat up. Wang predicts that Oracle and rival SAP AG will battle fiercely in years to come for bigger shares of the utilities, government, healthcare, telecom and financial services markets.

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SAP has been successfully competing in public sector markets recently through its partnership with Axon, a U.K.-based consultancy, Wang added.

"[Either] SPL or [Hansen Information Technologies] could … have been great acquisitions, but SPL has had strong relationships with PeopleSoft on [Customer Information Systems] and has strong market share with many municipal utilities," Wang said. "In general, this strategy makes sense so long as Oracle continues to provide SPL customers with strong support and additional functionality."

Oracle has been on an acquisition spree in recent years, picking up 22 companies, including customer relationship management giants PeopleSoft Corp. and Siebel Systems Inc. Last week, Oracle announced the planned purchase of telecommunications software vendor MetaSolv Software Inc. for $219.2 million.

SPL's software covers customer care, billing, mobile workforce management, asset management and logistics, and is specifically designed for electric, gas and water utilities.

Oracle says SPL's employees will form a dedicated global utilities business unit and will continue to develop public sector tax management software.

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