European Union Restarts Review Clock on Google-Motorola Deal
The European Union has restarted the clock on its antitrust review of Google's proposed acquisition of Motorola Mobility, which was announced last August and received Motorola stockholder approval in November. European Union's antitrust authorities have also set a Feb. 13 deadline for completing its review of the deal.
Last month, the European Commission put a temporary hold on its antitrust review of the deal in order to obtain more information from the two companies. A Google spokesperson characterized the pause as "routine" and said in December that the search-engine giant remained confident the EC will conclude that this acquisition is good for competition.
"We'll be working closely and cooperatively with them as they continue their review," Google's spokesperson said.
Motorola's smartphones have not succeeded in gaining significant traction in European Union member states to date, which suggests that if the EC does decide to approve Google's bid for Motorola the deal would not have any direct impact on European wireless network operators -- at least not right away.
"I do not think operators there are particularly concerned about this," said Gartner Research Vice President Carolina Milanesi in an e-mail Thursday. "But they are concerned about Google overall and this will be one more thing that Google will have to influence consumers."
In the long run, however, other analysts based in the region believe that European carriers are concerned about Google's plans for Motorola. "The acquisition is seen as a threat by mobile operators in Europe," said Francisco Jeronimo, IDC's research manager for European mobile devices.
European carriers are concerned they might "become even more dependent" on Google's offerings, Jeronimo said in a Thursday email. Not only are they worried about the Android platform itself, he noted, but also about the hardware "if Google manages to boost Motorola's brand in Europe."
Even if the EC decides to approve Google's acquisition of Motorola Mobility, there are other hurdles that both companies still need to clear before closing. According to Motorola Mobility, antitrust clearances also will be required in Canada, China, Israel, Russia, Taiwan, Turkey and the United States.
"Regulatory filings have been submitted to the appropriate regulatory body in each of these jurisdictions," Motorola Mobility stated in a regulatory filing in late October. "The failure to meet the closing conditions or other factors outside of our control could delay the transaction or prevent the companies from completing the merger."
Industry observers do not expect the antitrust division of the U.S. Department of Justice or the Federal Trade Commission to raise objections. However, final approval from U.S. regulators could be delayed until the end of next month or early March.
The anticipated delays may be due in part to the requests made by U.S. Sens. Herb Kohl, D-Wis., and Mike Lee, R-Utah, last month for the FTC to give Google's practices "serious scrutiny."
"We are committed to ensuring that consumers benefit from robust competition in online search and that the Internet remains the source of much free-market innovation," Kohl and Lee wrote in a letter to the FTC.
"We therefore urge the FTC to investigate the issues raised at our [Judiciary Antitrust] Subcommittee hearing to determine whether Google's actions violate antitrust law or substantially harm consumers or competition in this vital industry," Kohl and Lee added.