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Oracle Adds Healthcare Software Maker Phase Forward

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Oracle has said it will shell out $685 million to acquire Phase Forward, an on-demand provider of drug data management and health science software.

The all-cash transaction, which values Phase Forward (NASDAQ: PFWD) at about 30 percent above its closing price Thursday, is just the latest salvo in Oracle's (NASDAQ: ORCL) decade-long blood war with archenemy SAP.

Oracle will buy the Waltham, Mass.-based company for $17 a share and fold Phase Forward's employees and management team into its Health Sciences global business unit, it said.

By picking up one of the leading providers of applications used to manage clinical research studies and drug development, Oracle's new unit will make it a more attractive option to hospitals, universities and private research labs in the highly lucrative healthcare and life science verticals.

Oracle has ratcheted up the pressure on SAP, IBM (NYSE: IBM) and Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) in recent years by paying healthy premiums to acquire software companies that specialize in applicationsused for key vertical such as telecom, financial services, energy and healthcare.

"The life sciences and healthcare industries are converging as they seek to control costs while accelerating patient-centered innovation," Neil de Crescenzo, general manager of Oracle's Health Sciences unit, said in a statement. "Phase Forward brings outstanding products and employees with significant expertise to Oracle that will help enable the delivery of personalized medicine and value-based healthcare."

No stranger to acquisitions, the Phase Forward deal marks Oracle's 55th acquisition since 2005. In February, it added Convergin, an Israel-based developer of real-time service brokering applications for the telecom industry. Also that month, it snapped up SOA management software maker AmberPoint.

Oracle officials said the company plans to close the Phase Forward deal sometime near the middle of this year, assuming the purchase clears the customary reviews by regulators.

Larry Barrett is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

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