SAP tried to meet with Oracle over Sun-EU impasse

The letter from CEO Leo Apotheker fuels suspicion that the EU blocking the Sun acquisition due to lobbying efforts by SAP

Shortly after European regulators opened an antitrust probe into Oracle's pending acquisition of Sun Microsystems, SAP CEO Léo Apotheker wrote Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, asking for a meeting to discuss the merger and "other open issues" between the vendors, according to a Wall Street Journal editorial published late Thursday.

SAP spokesman James Dever confirmed on Friday that Apotheker had written Ellison "seeking a dialogue," but declined to provide a copy of the letter.

[ The EU's probe into the Oracle-Sun deal has been a rocky one. Last month, the EU chided Oracle for a "lack of cooperation," which has caused Oracle to dig in its heels and prepare for a fight. | Discover what's new in business applications with InfoWorld's Technology: Applications newsletter and Killer Apps blog. ]

The letter was sent Sept. 15 and consisted of the following brief statement, according to the Journal: "As you know, we have significant concerns about Oracle's proposed takeover of Sun. We renew our invitation to meet to attempt to resolve our concerns and other open issues between our companies. Please let us know if and when you would like to meet."

The WSJ's editorial referred to speculation that the European Commission is blocking the Sun acquisition due to lobbying efforts by SAP. It also noted that one major "open issue" between the companies is the intellectual property lawsuit Oracle filed against SAP in connection with TomorrowNow, a now-shuttered subsidiary of SAP that provided third-party support for Oracle applications. Oracle has said its damages could top $1 billion.

Meanwhile, the timing of Apotheker's letter implies that he "either believed, or wanted Oracle to believe, that he could smooth the merger review if he so desired," the editorial alleged.

The insinuations raised by the WSJ are baseless, according to Dever. "I disagree with the assumptions and inferences that were made," he said. "It certainly overstates what SAP can and is able to do."

"The fact is we have a deep relationship with Oracle that goes beyond a lawsuit," including many mutual customers, Dever added. "We're partners as well as competitors."

An Oracle spokeswoman didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Meanwhile, the European Commission is reportedly planning to issue a formal "statement of objections" against the merger. If that happens, Oracle plans to mount a vigorous offensive campaign with the aid of senior U.S. political officials, IDG News Service reported this week.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.