BOSTON - Oracle Corp will likely win European Union approval to buy Sun Microsystems Inc before the end of this week, clearing the way to close the long-delayed $7 billion deal, according to a person close to the company.

Approval of the deal was thrown into question in September, when the European Commission unexpectedly launched an in-depth probe of the acquisition, two weeks after it won U.S. regulatory approval without restrictions.

In December, the Commission signaled that it was optimistic it would clear the deal before a January 27 deadline, after Oracle soothed concerns that its acquisition of Sun's MySQL unit would hurt competition in the database market.

The acquisition will reshape the high-tech landscape by bringing No. 2 business software maker Oracle into the hardware business. Sun is the top player in the $17 billion-a-year market for high-end computer servers, competing against IBM and Hewlett-Packard Co.

A person close to Oracle, who was not authorized to publicly discuss the matter, said on Wednesday that the software maker expected to win European clearance by the end of this week.

Officials with the EC could not be reached for comment.

Sun shares rose 0.2 percent in afternoon Nasdaq trade to $9.43, close to Oracle's $9.50 per share cash offer for the company. They traded as low as $8.06 at the end of October amid concerns the EC might reject or delay the deal for years.

Shares in Oracle fell 1.5 percent to $24.96, in line with a broad decline in U.S. stocks.

Oracle, the world's biggest maker of database software, has said that the acquisition will add at least $1.5 billion to operating profit in the first full year after closing.

In addition to Sun's server computers and storage equipment, the acquisition will also give Oracle the widely used Java programing language, the Solaris operating system and SQL database.

Oracle Chief Executive Larry Ellison has said that he plans to sell specialized computers from Sun preloaded with Oracle's wide range of business software programs.

The two companies have already started selling one such product, a database machine, that Ellison says has potential to generate billions of dollars in annual revenue.

(Reporting by Jim Finkle; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)