Microsoft-LinkedIn Deal Appears Close to Approval in EU

European Union antitrust regulators are reportedly in favor of the Microsoft's proposed $26 billion buy out of social network LinkedIn after Microsoft made some market concessions competitors in the EU.

Microsoft-LinkedIn EU

Microsoft's $26 billion bid to acquire LinkedIn is taking a big step closer toward becoming a done deal.

The European Union's (EU) antitrust authority is set to give the merger its approval when it decides on the matter on Dec. 6, Reuters reported today, citing information from unnamed insiders.

EU regulators had originally set a Nov. 22 deadline, but extended its review after Microsoft proposed new concessions intended to ease concerns about how the deal could affect the competitive landscape. The Redmond, Wash. software giant has already gained the approval of regulators in the United States, as well as Brazil Canada and South Africa.

To win the European Commission's blessing, Microsoft is proposing to allow rival professional social networks access to the company's Outlook add-ins program, enabling them to integrate with the email and calendar client, according a Nov. 22 report in the Wall Street Journal. Microsoft also said it would allow Dell and other computer makers to disable the LinkedIn shortcut on their desktop PCs.

One of the deal's biggest opponents is Salesforce, which lost a bid to acquire the massive professional network. Burke Norton, chief legal officer of Salesforce, said the "acquisition of LinkedIn threatens the future of innovation and competition," in a Sept. 29 statement to the press.

"By 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," continued Norton. "We intend to work closely with regulators, lawmakers and other stakeholders to make the case that this merger is anticompetitive."

Microsoft anticipates that bringing LinkedIn and its millions of members into the fold will have a big ripple effect across its business software ecosystem.

"This deal is the next step forward for Office 365 and Dynamics as they connect to the world's largest and most valuable professional network," wrote Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, in a June 13 letter to employees. "In essence, we can reinvent ways to make professionals more productive while at the same time reinventing selling, marketing and talent-management business processes."

Meanwhile, recent moves by Roskomnadzor, Russia's communications oversight agency, have added a new wrinkle to the proceedings.

Last week, Roskomnadzor blocked access to LinkedIn after a court ruled that the company had violated a law requiring that data pertaining to Russian citizens be stored on servers within the country's borders. Users who point their browsers to LinkedIn are greeted by messages from their internet service providers indicating that they are attempting to access a restricted site.

LinkedIn and the bulk of its infrastructure resides in the U.S. The law was enacted by President Vladimir Putin in 2014, but it went into effect this year. The dust up is unlikely to have much of an effect on the multi-billion-dollar acquisition since LinkedIn only has 6 million users in Russia.

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 network of...