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1/21/2010
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Oracle Sun Merger Wins EU Approval

Larry Ellison's company says it now expects to close the deal shortly on heels of nod from the Continent's competition watchdogs.

Oracle moved closer to sealing its $7.4 billion acquisition of Sun Microsystems Thursday, as the European Union's antitrust body formally signed off on the deal following a three-month investigation into its impact on competition in the IT sector.

"I am now satisfied that competition and innovation will be preserved on all the markets concerned," said EU competition commissioner Neelie Kroes, in a statement. "Oracle's acquisition of Sun has the potential to revitalize important assets and create new and innovative products," said Kroes.

The merger still needs approval from regulators in Russia and China, but Oracle said it expects "unconditional approval" from those countries and that it "intends to close the transaction shortly."

Among other things, Kroes said the EU's probe looked at whether the deal would hurt competition in the database market. Through its buyout of Sun, Oracle gains control of the world's most widely-used open source database—MySQL.

"The Commission's in-depth investigation showed that although MySQL and Oracle compete in certain parts of the database market, they are not close competitors in others, such as the high-end segment," the EU said in a statement.

The European Commission, the EU's antitrust body, said it also found that the open source PostgreSQL database represents a legitimate, independent alternative to MySQL. It also determined that the merger wouldn't scotch users' access to Sun's Java development platform.

Oracle executives have said the acquisition of Sun would allow their company to offer a complete portfolio of products and services and help spare customers the frustration of having to build business IT systems from piece parts.

Perhaps in response, Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard struck a similar chord last week when they announced a broad, three-year alliance under which they plan to spend $250 million to integrate Microsoft software with HP's datacenter hardware.

For its part, Sun's proprietary hardware business had all but dried up in the face of competition from commodity players like Intel and Dell, and it struggled to keep pace with larger players in the software business, such as IBM, Microsoft, and Oracle itself.

Yet the company retained key, widely-used assets, including the Solaris operating system, MySQL--which boasts more than 11 million installations—and the Java programming language, a standard for Web application development.

Oracle shares were up .56%, to $25.20, in premarket trading Thursday.

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