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SAP rejects blackmail charges over Oracle letter

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SAP has rejected suggestions made in The Wall Street Journal that it was effectively trying to blackmail Oracle by claiming it could influence the investigation by the European Commission.

The editorial cited a previously-secret letter from SAP's chief executive Leo Apotheker sent to Larry Ellison at Oracle which said:

"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 letter was sent 15 September, shortly after the European Commission began investigating Oracle's takeover bid for Sun. The WSJ did not reveal who had given it the letter.

This seemed to have been enough for the normally plodding paper to decide:

Mr. Apotheker either believed, or wanted Oracle to believe, that he could smooth the merger review if he so desired. Nothing came of the offer, and the Commission now seems poised to block the deal. Only the antitrust mandarins in Brussels know for sure if they'd act differently if Mr. Ellison had accepted Mr. Apotheker's "invitation."

SAP rejected this interpretation and said the letter referred to concerns it had about the future of the Java programming language.

SAP told us:

"We always said that we want openness and choice. SAP has raised its concerns about the future open licensing of Java as well as about customer choice in the database market. We communicated our concerns already to Sun and Oracle at the working level end of July 2009. Since there was no reaction, Léo Apotheker took the initiative and wrote to both CEOs in the middle of September to attempt to resolve the issues. SAP has raised its concerns with the EU Commission as well. And we will continue to cooperate with the EU Commission and other anti-trust authorities in a transparent and open manner in the interest of choice for our customers and partners."

Meanwhile the European Commission has also hit back at mutterings from the Department of Justice - which has already approved the deal.

The EC launched a formal probe earlier this week and its spokesman described the DoJ comments as an unusual departure - regulators usually follow the protocol of not commenting on each other's ongoing investigations. The Commission has said it is more concerned with the future of open source database MySQL than what happens to Java.

Oracle has been criticised by legal observers for insisting on trying to push the deal through in August - when much of Brussels, and the rest of Europe, is heading to the beach. Getting decisions, or even getting hold of the people who make those decisions, is all but impossible when only the lowliest officials will still be at their desks.

The WSJ editorial is here. ®

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