Oracle Will Plead Sun Case to EC Nov. 25 in Brussels

 
 
By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2009-11-10
 
 
 

Oracle now has a date with the European Commission to argue its case before antitrust regulators in its quest to acquire Sun Microsystems.

The EC and Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes scheduled the hearing for Nov. 25 at the EC offices in Brussels, a source with knowledge of the transaction revealed Nov. 10 to eWEEK.

On Nov. 9, the EC, which serves as the antitrust arm of the 27-nation European Union, informed both Oracle and Sun that it was filing an official objection to the proposed transaction because it includes ownership of the freely available and popular MySQL Web database, which Sun bought for $1 billion in January 2008.

The regulators did not contest the Sun acquisition of MySQL because Sun is not primarily a database company. However, the EC does contend that there is a major conflict of interest in the world's largest commercial database company, Oracle, owning its largest open-source competitor.

The EC holds a great deal of influence in this case. Oracle does business in just about every EU nation and stands to lose a huge amount of business if the EC does not bless the deal.

The U.S. Department of Justice, which approved the pending $7.4 billion transaction on Aug. 20, said Nov. 9 it believes customers would still have a variety of choices after the merge and that it was unlikely to be anticompetitive.

"There are many open-source and proprietary database competitors," wrote Deputy Assistant Attorney General Molly Boast of the DOJ's Antitrust Division.

"The Division concluded ... that consumer harm is unlikely because customers would continue to have choices from a variety of well-established and widely accepted database products. The department also concluded that there is a large community of developers and users of Sun's open-source database with significant expertise in maintaining and improving the software, and who could support a derivative version of it."

The EC issued a quick response. "That's unusual. I cannot recall any instance where the European Commission has ever issued a statement concerning ongoing investigations in another jurisdiction," Jonathan Todd, a spokesperson for Kroes, told a press conference in Brussels.

"We have our methods, they have theirs. We apply European merger control rules, they apply U.S. merger control rules," Todd said.

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