EU Tells Oracle and Sun No Way; Maybe Oracle Wants Sun to Die

Last Updated Nov 10, 2009 12:34 PM EST

EU regulators have filed a formal objection to Oracle's (ORCL) planned acquisition of Sun (JAVA). This is exactly the scenario that was most likely to cause an implosion of the entire deal, and now it's happened. But maybe that's what Oracle wanted.

This move is bad for the acquisition on a number of fronts. First is that it simply cannot happen without European consent. Both companies are international in operations, and that means they need clearance to operate as a single entity in Europe. Lose that, and the entire arrangement goes down the tubes, and Sun with it.

But the whole situation raises even more problems. Back in September, SAP's (SAP) CEO asked to meet with Oracle's Larry Ellison about the acquisition and the EU objection. SAP, a European software giant, has "significant concerns" about the deal, which would make me think that its leadership might see MySQL as a potential out from under the thumb of being largely beholding to Oracle. The tone of the letter that SAP CEO Leo Apotheker sent to Ellison made it sound as though the company could help smooth the regulatory waters.

Nothing came of it, and that's bad because Oracle had already looked intransigent with regard to Europe. Clearly MySQL is a particular prize it wants, but you have to start wondering whether a blow up could prove just as useful. IT's hard to believe that Oracle wants the product to thrive and continue to take share in the small to medium business segment which is one of the few potential growth areas for the company's own database.

So maybe that's the whole point. Make an easy offer for Sun when clearly everyone else had dropped out of the bidding. Act nice in the US to look cooperative with regulations, and then get the back up with Europe. Our Department of Justice has already given its blessing. By effectively encouraging the EU to spike the deal, Oracle would get to slip out under the terms it negotiated and Sun might die off, MySQL going with it. Should assets be sold off, Oracle could then pick up the product in the U.S. for much less than Sun would have cost and then bury it. Not a bad way to eliminate a market threat.

Image courtesy Erik Sherman, copyright 2009, all rights reserved.

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    Erik Sherman is a widely published writer and editor who also does select ghosting and corporate work. The views expressed in this column belong to Sherman and do not represent the views of CBS Interactive. Follow him on Twitter at @ErikSherman or on Facebook.