EU gives Oracle extra time to respond to Sun inquiry

Oracle was granted an extra week to prepare to make its case for the planned merger in front of European regulators

Oracle and Sun Microsystems have been granted an extra week to defend their planned $7 billion merger in front of European regulators, the European Commission said Friday.

Earlier this month the Commission, Europe's top antitrust regulator, issued formal objections to the deal, arguing that it posed a threat to competition in the market for database software.

[ In anticipation of the statement of objects, Oracle began prepping for a long battle with the EU. |  Revelations that SAP tried to meet with Oracle has fueled suspicions that the EU is blocking the Oracle-Sun merger due to SAP's lobbying efforts. ]

The deadline for a final ruling has been put back to Jan. 27 from Jan. 19, which amounts to six additional working days for Oracle to win over the skeptical regulator.

"Oracle requested the extension in order to have the opportunity to further develop its arguments in response to the Commission's concerns," the Commission said in a routine weekly statement on the status of ongoing merger investigations.

The Commission's concerns center on Oracle acquiring MySQL, an open source database developed in Europe and bought by Sun a year ago for $1 billion. It argued in its statement of objections that the acquisition of the most significant open source database on the market by Oracle, the proprietary database market leader, could harm competition.

Oracle responded angrily, accusing the Commission of not understanding the database market. It claims that MySQL is aimed at a totally different type of client from the ones that use Oracle's database products.

However, the Commission, as well as many observers, argue that even if the products don't compete at the moment, Oracle's ownership of MySQL could stifle the software's development. This could have a negative long term effect on the database market, they said.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.