Siebel Takes Shots at Oracle at H&Q Conference

Also, Network Solutions gains, and Net stocks rise ahead of quarterly reports.
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SAN FRANCISCO -- The front office has taken center stage at the Hambrecht & Quist Annual Technology Conference, as applications software maker Siebel Systems (SEBL) and database giant Oracle (ORCL) - Get Report face off.

In a presentation littered with potshots at Oracle, and specifically at Oracle's struggling applications business, Tom Siebel, CEO of Siebel Systems, predicted that "sometime in 1999, we will be the second-largest applications software vendor, in terms of license revenue, behind

SAP

(SAP) - Get Report

." He added that the dethroning of Oracle in the No. 2 spot "was at this point, a matter of quarters."

With the market for back-office enterprise software contracting, Oracle and German software giant SAP have been racing to move into the front-office space, which has so far been unaffected by year 2000 fears and has continued to grow.

He also told investors that Oracle would probably "make a lot of noise in the second half of this year" about new front-office software, but warned investors that "Oracle's been announcing these products since 1994." Building reliable, Web-enabled front-office suites of products takes years to build, so any latecomers will have a difficult time matching Siebel.

An Oracle executive vice president, Gary Bloom, took most of what Siebel said in stride in his presentation, which immediately followed. He emphasized Oracle's strategy to be the primary provider of Internet-enabled solutions, pointedly noting for investors that "Siebel is a great example of a company saying it's Internet-enabled but still talks about shrink-wrapping CDs" to send to customers to install.

So what did buy-siders think of the main event? One buy-side analyst who sat through both presentations laughed it off, saying that she actually liked both companies. She said she was more interested in Siebel's sideshow, "his shameless touting of his own book at the end." Siebel recently published a book called

Cyber Rules

, whose proceeds, he swears, go to his company.

Siebel was up 3 13/16, or 10%, at 42 1/8. Oracle was up 1 19/32, or 6%, at 28 15/16.

--

Medora Lee

Internet Stocks Blowing Another Bubble

There was panic a week ago today. The Internet stock bubble had

burst, and a sloppy correction was in store. One week later, all is well in Internet-land and those that led the way up continue to lead.

Among the top performers was

Network Solutions

(NSOL)

. The company has been on a tear since the government named the five companies that will be allowed to compete with Network Solutions in registering Internet domain names. The stock traded as low as 57 7/8 on April 20, but rallied to a high of 104 11/16 on April 22 as shorts established before the announcement were squeezed hard.

More importantly, Network Solutions is expected to remain the premier name for registering addresses. The company announced today that its Premier Domain Registration Services program had signed up 100 providers since last July. It was trading up 5 3/4, or 7%, at 85 3/4.

A number of other Internet stocks are up in advance of quarterly results this week.

eBay

(EBAY) - Get Report

, which reports after the close today, was up 6 5/8, or 3%, at 206 3/4, off an intraday high of 217 5/8 after the company said it would buy the

Butterfield & Butterfield

auction house.

Also,

DoubleClick

(DCLK)

, which reports Tuesday, was up 14 3/8, or 10%, at 161 5/8. It is expected to report a 13-cent-a-share loss.

MindSpring Enterprises

(MSPG)

was up 9 1/4, or 8.5%, at 117 1/2, ahead of its report Tuesday. And

America Online

(AOL)

, which also reports on Tuesday, was up 8 3/4, or 6%, at 155 3/4. Buying by daytraders has fueled gains in these stocks in advance of earnings. These stocks rose on hopes for strong earnings and potential stock splits.

Amazon.com

(AMZN) - Get Report

was lower ahead of its earnings report on Wednesday. The stock jumped from 153 1/2 on April 20 to a high of 216 1/2 on April 23. It is expected to report a loss of 29 cents a share on Wednesday.

Fore!

Shares of

Fore Systems

(FORE)

, a supplier of network equipment, were sharply higher after

General Electric

of Britain said it would acquire the supplier of network equipment for $4.5 billion, or $35 a share. Fore was trading up 9, or 37%, at 33 1/2. GEC isn't related to

General Electric

(GE) - Get Report

of the U.S.