E.U. to Review Google's Bid

By Matthew Newman
Bloomberg News
Saturday, July 7, 2007

European Union regulators will review Google's plans to buy DoubleClick for $3.1 billion after national authorities declined to take the case.

Google asked the E.U. whether the transaction fulfilled the criteria for a pan-European review. National regulators did not ask to review the case, allowing it to automatically come under the jurisdiction of the European Commission, the E.U.'s antitrust authority in Brussels.

Google announced plans to buy DoubleClick in April to bolster its sales of Internet ads that include pictures and video. The move prompted companies including Microsoft and AT&T to ask for a review of the purchase, saying it would hurt competition in the $28.8 billion global online advertising market.

"Given the pan-European nature of both Google and DoubleClick's businesses, we felt that the commission was best placed to review the acquisition," Julia Holtz, a competition lawyer for Google in London, said in an e-mail yesterday.

Jonathan Todd, a commission spokesman, had no comment.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission said May 29 that it was reviewing Google's acquisition of DoubleClick to determine its effects on competition.

Google, of Mountain View, Calif., generates revenue by selling text-based ads that appear next to search results. DoubleClick's products help advertisers measure how effective their ads are and allow Web publishers to track and manage online advertising. The ads are typically so-called display ads that include graphics or animation.

"Google and DoubleClick play different but complementary roles in online advertising," Alex Kinnier, Google's group product manager, said last month on the company's blog. "Google primarily sells ads, and DoubleClick delivers (serves) ads."

The European consumer group BEUC criticized the acquisition, saying in a June 27 letter to the commission that the takeover will give Google a monopoly in online advertising. The market share of the combined company would leave consumers with "no real ability to choose services other than those served by Google," the group said in the letter.

Separately, Microsoft said yesterday that it had cleared a regulatory hurdle for its $6 billion proposed acquisition of aQuantive of Seattle, an online ad company.

Microsoft said in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing that the required waiting period under antitrust laws expired and that the transaction has satisfied all requirements under the Hart-Scott Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act.

The deal between Microsoft and aQuantive, announced in May, is still subject to several closing conditions, including shareholder approval. DoubleClick competes with aQuantive.

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