European aircraft maker Airbus SAS has withdrawn its petition to intervene in the European Commission’s antitrust case against Microsoft Corp., one week before the software maker is set to have a hearing in its appeal, a Microsoft representative confirmed on Friday.
News that Airbus filed a petition with the court handling the appeal became public last week. In the petition, Airbus asked for clarification of certain points in the Commission’s antitrust ruling and expressed concerns that the ruling could hamper its business practices. Although Airbus declined to give further details, it reportedly feared that the decisions would hinder its ability to choose providers for parts such as plane seats and galleys.
The intervention was seen as a boost to Microsoft’s case by providing evidence that the antitrust decision could have wider implications on companies in a variety of industries.
But now the petition’s withdrawal, and its timing, have fallen under suspicion.
Horacio Gutierrez, Microsoft’s chief counsel in Europe, said that Airbus’ recision was “an unusual development” given that it comes so close to next week’s hearing.
“These actions may illustrate why other industry leaders have been sympathetic to the merits of our case but reluctant to come forward and explain the negative consequences of the commission’s decision,” Gutierrez said.
A report published in The Wall Street Journal on Friday cited sources saying that at least one European Union (E.U.) commissioner called Airbus recently try to convince it to drop its support for Microsoft, and that the plane maker was angered that news of its petition became public just as the E.U. was negotiating to level the playing field between it and U.S. rival The Boeing Co.
A Commission spokeswoman on Friday dismissed the notion that a commissioner would have put pressure on Airbus to withdraw its petition.
“Airbus is big enough to decide what to do. What I have seen about reported pressure is rubbish,” said Amelia Torres.
She added that the Commission couldn’t see how its decision on Microsoft would have a direct effect on Airbus.
“Bearing this in mind, we are rather unconcerned by this affair,” Torres said.
After a lengthy investigation, the Commission, the E.U.’s executive body, issued a firm antitrust ruling against Microsoft earlier this year, declaring that the company abused its dominance in the PC operating systems market to get an edge in other markets, such as media players. It ordered the Redmond, Washington, company to pay a ÃÂ¢ÃÂÃÂ¬497 million (US$610 million) fine, begin selling a version of Windows without its Media Player software and reveal enough Windows source code that rivals could build competing server software that works properly with it.
Microsoft appealed the decision and the case is currently being considered in the E.U.’s Court of First Instance, which is holding a hearing on the matter Thursday.
(Simon Taylor in Brussels contributed to this report.)