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EU signals could OK Oracle deal with no sell-off

Mon, 12/14/2009 - 7:05am
Aoife White, AP Business Writer

BRUSSELS (AP) – European Union regulators looked closer to approving Oracle Corp.'s takeover of Sun Microsystems Inc. when they said Monday that the company's stated commitment to open-source database software was "an important new element."

The European Commission is holding up the $7.4 billion (euro5.05 billion) deal over worries that Oracle would gain too much control over the database software market if it takes over Sun's open-source-based MySQL, which the EU claims poses a threat to Oracle's own database programs.

Oracle moved to soothe those fears Monday, promising it would invest heavily in MySQL and maintain both licenses and the sharing of interface information with developers so that they could continue to make products compatible with MySQL.

Sun's shares rose 9 percent to $9.11 on the U.S. Nasdaq exchange, while Oracle shares traded up 2.3 percent at $23.30 on increased optimism the deal will go through.

European regulators have a Jan. 27 deadline to decide whether to approve the takeover or block it. They earlier said they were concerned that Oracle could refuse to license MySQL to some companies or for some uses to favor its own software – which could limit customer choice and ultimately hike prices. Sun paid $1 billion for MySQL last year.

Companies often soothe antitrust worries by selling off units or making binding promises to change the way they operate to avoid anticompetitive damage to rivals or customers. EU spokesman Jonathan Todd said Oracle had not so far formally offered any such changes to the deal.

In Monday statements, both Oracle and the EU's executive said they have had "constructive discussions" about the EU's view that MySQL should remain an important competitive force in the database market after Oracle buys Sun.

Oracle also said it was making a series of public commitments "in order to further reassure the commission" – and to outspend Sun on MySQL research and development over the next three years. Sun spent $24 billion on that in its last fiscal year.

It pledged to "continue to enhance MySQL" by releasing community editions – which are free for private use and by nonprofit organizations – at the same time as it releases new paying versions for companies.

It said it would maintain and enhance MySQL's pluggable storage engine architecture so that users could keep using "publicly available, documented application programming interfaces," or APIs, and that it wouldn't demand a commercial license for using them – a change from Sun's current position as copyright holders.

Storage vendors could extend existing licenses for MySQL in Europe on the same terms up until Dec. 10, 2014, Oracle said, also promising not to charge commercial licensees for Oracle support services.

Oracle also moved to calm users angered by the purchase, saying it would set up advisory boards to seek opinions from MySQL customers and storage engine vendors on major issues.

EU regulators welcomed these promises as "an important new element to be taken into account" in their review of the deal. EU competition commissioner Neelie Kroes repeated that she was "optimistic" that the case could have a satisfactory outcome and would not harm competition in Europe.

The EU objection has ratcheted up tension about the fate of the deal, which Sun badly needs to go through. It lost $677 million over the last four quarters and is rapidly shedding market share to rivals like IBM Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co.

Sun also said in October that it would be cutting up to 3,000 jobs, or 10 percent of its worldwide workforce, as it awaits a decision on the fate of the deal.

More Broadband Direct 12/14/09:
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•  Cablevision plans MSG spin-off for Q1
•  Analyst: Clearwire `too strategic to fail'
•  Google branding own handset?
•  TeliaSonera launches 1st LTE network
•  Verizon Wireless bows file-sharing tool for phones, PCs
•  ETI Software looks to the tech-savvy future
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•  AT&T to finish acquiring Alltel customers in Q1
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•  Aurora taps sales lead for western U.S.
•  EU signals could OK Oracle deal with no sell-off
•  Broadband Briefs for 12/14/09

 

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