Oracle Corp. (ORCL) raised its hostile bid for rival business software maker PeopleSoft Inc. (PSFT) by 14 percent Monday, aiming to bring a resolution to the long-running takeover battle between the bitter foes.

The sweetened bid boosts Oracle's all-cash offer to $24 per share, up from a bid of $21 per share that was valued at $7.7 billion and was rejected as inadequate by Pleasanton-based PeopleSoft in May. It marked the fourth time that Redwood Shores-based Oracle has revised its bid since it began its bold attempt to buy PeopleSoft nearly 17 months ago.

Determined to resolved a soap opera that has featured acerbic exchanges between both sides, Oracle described its latest bid as its "best and final offer." The company also said it will abandon the takeover attempt if a majority of PeopleSoft's shares haven't accepted the new offer by a midnight Nov. 19 deadline.

"We think the time has come for the stockholders of PeopleSoft to decide the outcome," Oracle chairman Jeff Henley said during a Monday conference call with analysts.

PeopleSoft's board has staunchly resisted Oracle's takeover bid throughout the saga, although the directors have recently signaled they would be willing to negotiate if its suitor raised the offer from $21 per share.

In a statement issued Monday, PeopleSoft's board advised the company's shareholders to take no action until the directors reviewed Oracle's latest offer "in due course." The board's statement noted that it in February it rejected an Oracle offer of $26 per share — the highest bid made since the stand-off began.

Investors have widely anticipated Oracle would raise the stakes since PeopleSoft fired Craig Conway (search) as its chief executive a month ago. Conway, a former Oracle executive, had spearheaded PeopleSoft's resistance, often taunting his rival in the process.

As PeopleSoft's directors began to court a higher bid, Oracle management suggested the company was leaning toward lowering its offer — a tactic that recently caused PeopleSoft's stock to drop.

PeopleSoft's shares ended last week at $20.77. The higher bid represents a 59 percent to PeopleSoft's stock price before Oracle first launched its bid in June 2003.

"We think it's a very rich price," Henley said.

Oracle's revised offer doesn't just change the price. The company also said it will introduce a new generation of PeopleSoft products — a move apparently aimed at appeasing many of PeopleSoft customers who opposed the takeover attempt. Oracle previously had planned to stop developing new PeopleSoft products while supporting the existing lines of the company's software for at least a decade.

The U.S. government, backed by PeopleSoft, had tried to derail the Oracle takeover, alleging in an antitrust lawsuit that the proposed combination would hurt the users of business applications software — the computer coding the automates a range of administrative tasks.

A federal judge rejected the antitrust lawsuit in September, helping to fortify Oracle's bid. Europe's antitrust regulators gave their antitrust blessing last week, setting the stage for Oracle's sweetened offer.