Sun/Oracle Prompts E.U. Optimism

Updated with IBM's comments on the E.U.'s concerns

BRUSSELS ( TheStreet) -- Sun's ( JAVA) controversial acquisition by Oracle ( ORCL) is entering into a crucial few days although E.U. officials are said to be optimistic before Thursday's hearing to discuss the proposed merger.

Reuters reports that despite the European Commission's much-publicized objections to the deal, competition commissioner Neelie Kroes is hopeful of striking a compromise with database giant Oracle at the two-day hearing.

"I am still optimistic that we can reach a satisfactory outcome that will ensure there is no adverse impact on effective competition in the European market," said Kroes at a press conference on Wednesday, according to Reuters.

Sun shares crept up 3 cents, or 0.35%, to $8.52 shortly after the market opened on Wednesday. Oracle's stock dipped 4 cents, or 0.17%, to $21.87, mirroring the Nasdaq, which was down 0.21%.

E.C. officials recently issued a formal objection to the deal as regulators voiced their concern about Oracle taking control of Sun's MySQL technology, which has strong links to the open source community.

This prompted a war of words between Oracle and the E.C., with both sides trading barbs. In a statement released last month, Oracle vowed to oppose the E.C. and said that it was confident of its ability to clinch the sale with "unconditional clearance."

The software maker has also denied a report that it is willing to create a separate unit to house Sun's contentious MySQL database technology.

MySQL, which competes with Oracle, Microsoft's ( MSFT) SQL and IBM's ( IBM) DB2, is one of Sun's core technologies. The MySQL server powers many open-source programs such as WordPress, and the E.C. is worried about behemoth Oracle controlling such a key technology.

Reuters reports that the Redwood Shores, Calif.-based firm has until Dec. 14 to address the E.U.'s concerns and said that Oracle, Sun and other "interested parties" can argue their case at this week's two-day hearing. A final decision, however, is not expected until early next year. European officials recently extended the deadline for their antitrust review of the $7.4 billion deal by more than a week, from Jan. 19 until Jan. 27.

Oracle had originally hoped to close the deal, which is already approved by the Department of Justice and Sun shareholders, sometime during the summer.

The drawn-out purchase has been particularly problematic for Sun, which recently announced plans to cut 3,000 jobs. Sun revealed the layoffs in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, explaining that its hand was forced by the deal's delay.

Ellison has also complained that the EC probe is costing Sun $100 million a month.

Oracle rival IBM dismissed the E.U.'s antitrust concerns in a Financial Times report on Wednesday. In an interview, Steve Mills, the tech giant's software chief, said that MySQL poses "little direct challenge" to Oracle and IBM's databases.

-- Reported by James Rogers in New York

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