Sun shines for Oracle in Europe

Oracle has won unconditional European Union approval for its $7 billion takeover of Sun Microsystems, a month after offering public pledges to sooth regulatory concerns. The Commission’s decision averts a split with the U.S. Department of Justice, which approved the deal in August. While authorities in China and Russia have yet to approve the deal, it is still seen reshaping the high-tech landscape, with Oracle, the world’s No. 2 business software maker, moving into the hardware business. Sun is the top player in the $17 billion high-end computer-server market.

Oracle’s play-nice promise in December to keep the market open for others to make storage engine software for Sun’s MySQL database and to boost investment in the unit came after the European Commission launched an in-depth investigation of the deal. Oracle also pledged to set up a separate customer advisory board of MySQL users.

Florian Mueller, a spokesman for the founder of MySQL, Michael Widenius, who is strongly opposed to the deal, said the European Union executive’s decision was wrong. “It’s not based on hard facts… It should not serve as the basis for decisions taken by other regulators because it would set an awful precedent for merger control in connection with open source and a variety of other IT business models,” he said. Opponents could yet challenge the deal in court, but with both the U.S. and EU now giving it their blessing, they might want to petition a court further east.

UBS dodges bigger bullet in tax pact

SWITZERLANDEmbattled Swiss bank UBS struck a deferred prosecution agreement with the U.S. Justice Department that will cost them $780 million. It could have been worse.

Though paying a hefty fine, the Swiss bank is paying ZERO punitive fines, despite conceding that they helped U.S. residents – estimated to number 250 — avoid paying income taxes over an eight year period.

The agreement announced on Wednesday specifies that UBS will give up $380 million of profit from eight years of cross-border business — of which $200 million will be paid to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and $180 million to the Department of Justice — and $400 million for back taxes, tax penalties and restitution for unpaid taxes and interest .