Oracle buyout of Sun looks worse by the day

Oracle's (ORCL) buyout of Sun Microsystems (JAVA) was conceived as a plan to combine the larger company's huge presence in enterprise software with the smaller firm's hardware and open source products technology. It was nearly a perfect marriage -- perfect enough for Oracle to pay a premium to complete the $7.9 billion deal.

The acquisition easily made it through the U.S. regulatory gauntlet, but has now become bogged down in a review by E.U. antitrust officials. Oracle's CEO, Larry Eillson, told an industry group that Sun is now losing $100 million a month, making the arrangement to buy the server company more troubled as each day passes.


Oracle probably made a mistake by purchasing a company as crippled as Sun. The server company has lost money off and on for a number of quarters, and has only shown profits when it made big cuts in staff. The firm's future was bleak until Oracle made its offer.

Oracle's other mistake was to underestimate the European review process. Officials there are worried that the two companies will have too much of the database business on the Continent, which will stifle competition. Oracle might have guessed the E.U. would be a tough judge; while regulators in America have not been terribly aggressive toward the business practices of large tech companies, the E.U. has regularly beat up on companies like Microsoft ( MSFT) and Intel (INTC) for what it sees as monopolistic behavior.

Companies contemplating tech marriages will need to look at the regulators in Europe as a growing hurdle. Whether it is reasonable or not, the E.U. does not think much of the business practices of the largest American hardware and software companies.

Douglas A. McIntyre is an editor at 24/7 Wall St.


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