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SAP Plans Oracle Fight

After being served with an ugly lawsuit by Oracle (ORCL) alleging "corporate theft on a grand scale," SAP (SAP) announced its intention to fight the action, but gave no details of its defense.

"SAP will not comment other than to make it clear to our customers, prospects, investors, employees and partners that SAP will aggressively defend against the claims made by Oracle in the lawsuit," the German software giant said in a prepared statement issued late Friday. "SAP will remain focused on delivering products and services -- including those from TomorrowNow -- that ensure success for our customers."

According to Oracle, employees of SAP's Texas-based TomorrowNow unit posed as legitimate Oracle customers to gain access to the company's customer-support Web site, and then allegedly stole privileged information.

Oracle filed the suit Thursday in U.S. District Court for Northern California.

The two companies have been battling each other to gain market share in the hyper-competitive market for business applications software. SAP is the leader in the category, but Oracle, fueled by a multi-billion-dollar acquisition binge, has been coming on strong.

In a note to clients Friday, Merrill Lynch analyst Kash Rangan noted that SAP has been aggressively seeking to steal customers from Oracle's recently acquired companies.

"TomorrowNow has been trying for more than two years to lure away Oracle's PeopleSoft, JD Edwards and Siebel customers, offering price breaks of about 50% under SAP's 'Safe Passage' program," he wrote.

Support, Rangan notes, is a huge revenue stream for enterprise software companies. Indeed, support will likely account for an estimated 47% of Oracle's fiscal 2007 revenues, Rangan says. Merrill Lynch has an investment banking relationship with Oracle, but not with SAP.

Shares of SAP closed Friday at $45.57, down 71 cents, or 1.5%. Oracle shares closed down 25 cents, or 1.4%, to $18.24.

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