EU Approval Clears Way for Microsoft to Close LinkedIn Purchase

Microsoft could close it's $26 billion acquisition of the LinkIn social network within days now that the European Commission has approved the deal.

Microsoft-LinkedIn Approval 2

Microsoft expects to close its $26 billion acquisition of LinkedIn in the coming days after getting the European Commission's approval for the deal on Dec. 6.

"A growing number of Europeans subscribe to professional social networks. These networks are important for professionals to connect and interact and to find new career opportunities," said Margrethe Vestager, Commissioner in charge of competition policy, in a statement.

"Today's decision ensures that Europeans will continue to enjoy a freedom of choice between professional social networks."

The EU's approval comes six months after Microsoft and LinkedIn announce the deal in mid-June.

Salesforce.com, after a failed bid to acquire LinkedIn, was one of the deal's staunchest opponents.

Burke Norton, chief legal officer of Salesforce, argued that in "gaining ownership of LinkedIn's unique dataset of over 450 million professionals in more than 200 countries, Microsoft will be able to deny competitors access to that data, and in doing so obtain an unfair competitive advantage," in a Sept. 29 statement to the press. "We intend to work closely with regulators, lawmakers and other stakeholders to make the case that this merger is anticompetitive."

Those efforts appear to have fallen short.

During its review, European Union regulators "found that access to the full LinkedIn database is not essential to compete on the market," stated the Commission. The group also concluded that "Microsoft is a relatively small player" in the market for customer relationship management (CRM) solutions, which includes Oracle and SAP and is currently led by Salesforce.

The European Union's blessing didn't come without some concessions on Microsoft's part.

For the next five years, Microsoft committed to make its Office Add-in program available to competing professional social networks. The company is also required to grant LinkedIn's competitors access to Microsoft Graph (formerly the Office 365 Unified API), potentially enabling them to attract subscribers and drive usage based on contact information and other data stored on Microsoft's cloud.

The company also pledged to extend Office Store promotional opportunities to those third-party networks. In addition, the company promised to allow administrators to switch off the display of LinkedIn profile information and activity feeds in Office products when the ecosystems are integrated.

PC makers can opt-out of including bundled LinkedIn apps in future versions of Windows. "If we develop a LinkedIn application or a tile for Windows PCs and include it in Windows, we'll allow PC manufacturers to choose not to install them on their Windows PCs in the European Economic Area," wrote Brad Smith, president and chief legal officer of Microsoft, in a blog post.

The software giant also vowed to refrain from striking deals with PC makers requiring them to preinstall a LinkedIn app or tile on their Windows machines. "Similarly, we'll ensure that users can uninstall the application and tile if they wish. We also won't use Windows itself to prompt users to install a LinkedIn application, although it can remain available in the Windows Store and be promoted in other ways," continued Smith.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the Internet.com network of...