Playing in Larry’s sandbox

Having spent more than $42 billion to buy about 60 companies, Larry Ellison’s Oracle has set something of a daunting standard for merger activity in the business software industry. So while SAP’s plan to buy smaller business software maker Sybase for $5.8 billion may not roil markets, it could certainly shake up things in an already  busy infotech sector.

With Sybase, SAP gets a boost in mobile technology, but will also end up with a big database business that provides steady revenues but little else on which SAP can grow its business.

The database chunk is by far the bigger earner for Sybase, with the mobile aps business accounting for only a little over a quarter of annual revenue, so it could make an attractive business for SAP to hive off. Breakingviews columnist Robert Cyran points out that keeping a hand in the database world could also prove awkward for SAP as it exacerbates competitive friction with its allies, Microsoft and IBM.

SAP could also look to sell the database business to cash up for any more strategic moves. Given this is the second-biggest deal for SAP in its nearly 40-year history, and marks the first big move since a management shakeup, the sandbox that so recently seemed to be Larry’s exclusive territory is only going to become more crowded.

Who belongs in the Financial Crisis Undersung Hall of Fame? has compiled a list of unappreciated heroes of the financial crisis: “Some Good Names in a Year Gone Bad.”

Can you match up the undersung HOFers with their acts of contrarian bravery, as selected by breakingviews’ Antony Currie, Rob Cox and (formerly of Reuters) Jeffrey Goldfarb?

1. Tom Scholar

2. Jeff Kronthal

3. Harry Markopolos

4. Peter Wuffli

5. Greg Fleming

6. Jed Rakoff

A. Options trader who warned the SEC about Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme

B. Merrill Lynch executive who warned his bosses about taking on too much risk

C. Former Merrill president who convinced CEO John Thain to accept an acquisition by Bank of America

News Corp, Breakingviews, and the FT

rtrdc25_comp.jpgReuters’ Robert MacMillan was the first to report that the Wall Street Journal plans to drop a daily opinion column from, the financial commentary and news service founded by financial journalist Hugo Dixon. But as Portfolio’s Felix Salmon notes, the move may have a lot to do with the Financial Times.

With all of the coverage about Murdoch’s desire to use the Journal to take on the New York Times, it’s easy to forget that News Corp’s acquisition also puts the FT squarely in its sights. Salmon posits that Journal editor Robert Thomson is preparing a direct assault on the FT’s lucrative Lex column, which the pink-hued paper considers to be such a draw that it charges a hefty premium for access.

On the same day that Breakingviews was dropped, the Journal also poached Thorold Barker and Liam Denning from Lex. Their likely destination: The Journal’s rival “Heard on the Street” column, which unlike Lex is free online.