EU says U.S. comment on Oracle, Sun deal "unusual"

BRUSSELS Tue Nov 10, 2009 7:54am EST

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Comments by the U.S. Department of Justice after EU competition authorities formally objected to Oracle's plan to buy Sun Microsystems were "unusual," the European Commission said on Tuesday.

Computer maker Sun said on Monday the Commission had objected to the combination of its MySQL database product and software maker Oracle's products because it could hurt competition in the database market.

The U.S. Department of Justice, which cleared the deal in August, said in a statement on Monday it believed customers would still have a variety of choices after the companies merge, adding that the merger was unlikely to be anticompetitive.

Asked about the comments, Jonathan Todd, spokesman for European Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes, told a daily briefing: "That's unusual. I cannot recall any instance where the European Commission has ever issued a statement concerning ongoing investigations in another jurisdiction."

He said the two regulators use different approaches when examining merger cases.

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

The last time the two regulators issued different decisions on a merger case took place in 2000 when U.S. authorities approved General Electric Co's takeover of Honeywell but this was blocked by the Commission in 2001 on antitrust grounds.

Sun agreed to sell itself to Oracle in April after several years of failed attempts to turn itself around and is hoping that the deal will transform it into a diversified technology company.

Its MsSQL database, which it bought for $1 billion last year, is used to run popular websites including Google, Facebook and Amazon.

Oracle's claim that the Commission does not understand the market is "facile and superficial," Todd said, adding there were concerns about Oracle owning the copyright and trademark for MySQL even though it is an open source database.

"It could be very difficult for a competitor using MySQL codes to sufficiently replace the competitive constraints currently exerted by MySQL in a timely manner," he said.

The Commission has until January 19 to decide whether to approve or block the deal.

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by Jon Loades-Carter)

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