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EU signs off on IBM's Cognos acquisition

European regulators have approved IBM's $5 billion acquisition of Cognos.

IBM's US$5 billion acquisition of business intelligence software vendor Cognos took a step forward on Thursday as European regulators gave their approval to the deal.

After examining the acquisition, the European Commission said in a statement that it "would not give rise to competition concerns, since the parties' combined market share would be moderate."

IBM announced its intention to buy Cognos, based in Ottawa, in November, saying it hoped to combine the Cognos software with IBM's back-end database products. They hope to close the deal by the end of March, but there are still a few regulatory requirements to be met, including the approval of Canada's minister of industry.

Business intelligence software is used to analyze data from different sources within a company and help management get a better picture of the business. Several business intelligence software vendors have been acquired recently, including Hyperion, purchased by Oracle, and Business Objects, purchased by SAP.

IBM to date has partnered with business intelligence software vendors, providing the back-end infrastructure components. But changing customer demands sparked its interest in Cognos, according to Ambuj Goyal, general manager of information management in IBM's software group and a key player in the Cognos deal.

"Now, more and more clients are saying, 'We are not an integration technology business, we are in a business-outcome business. You do the integration,'" he said in a recent interview. "More and more clients are not doing best-of-breed purchases."

(Chris Kanaracus in Boston contributed to this story.)