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IBM Settles European Union Antitrust Dispute Over Mainframes

International Business Machines Corp., the biggest computer services provider, settled a European Union antitrust probe into conduct that may have hindered rival mainframe-software makers.

The European Commission accepted IBM’s offer to supply spare parts and technical information to other manufacturers on reasonable and non-discriminatory terms for five years, the EU said in an e-mailed statement today.

“I am pleased that we could find a swift solution with IBM to our competition concerns,” said EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia in the statement. “Timely interventions are crucial in fast-moving technology markets.”

While IBM has shifted its focus away from hardware toward its more profitable software and services businesses, the mainframe operations have high gross margins and help pull in revenue for other IBM divisions. Armonk, New York-based IBM began developing mainframe computers in the 1940s and 1950s and is among the few companies selling the systems.

IBM’s offer ends a probe that started last year into what the EU said were “unreasonable” supply conditions that may have restricted or delayed rivals’ access to spare parts. IBM made the proposal in September. The Brussels-based regulator also closed a separate probe over IBM’s mainframe computers after three competitors dropped complaints.

“IBM welcomes this final resolution of the inquiry into certain IBM mainframe maintenance practices and is pleased that the commission’s investigation of the IBM mainframe is now concluded,” Joe Hanley, a spokesman for the company in London, said in an e-mail.

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