The deadline for when the European Union would decide the fate of Google’s $3.1 billion purchase of DoubleClick has been moved from Oct. 26 to Nov. 13.
A spokeswoman for the EU told Reuters the decision on the deal was moved back so “proposed remedies to possible competition problems could be tested.” Apparently, this means Google has proposed changes to the deal that will have to be weighed by rivals such as Microsoft and Yahoo, as well as with customers.
Frankly, short of giving up DoubleClick, which would pad Google’s already superior position in the online advertising market, I’m not sure what changes Google might extend that any of these businesses would be happy with.
The delay prolongs what must be an agonizing wait for the search company, which no doubt wants to get on with the process of integrating DoubleClick. For this deal, the EU is cooperating with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, whose members heard oppositional testimony from Microsoft head lawyer Brad Smith and others last month.
Legal experts have said the chances of the deal getting quashed are slim due largely to the complex nature of the online advertising business.
To that end, I like to point people to the Oracle-PeopleSoft hostile takeover. People hemmed and hawed about how what Oracle was doing was wrong, but the DOJ, FTC and EU all eventually saw the deal as creating value in the applications market.
The DoubleClick scrutiny is about the only thing that isn’t going 100 percent Google’s way these days, considering the company’s soaring stock price and recent 46 percent profit hike. At some point, the company’s incredible luck is bound to expire; it’s just a matter of how and when.
Microsoft spent years building up a warchest thanks to its office software and operating system, only to see the governments (U.S. and EU) step in and take it down a few notches. Believe that federal commissions will not let another hi-tech company grow to the Microsoftian power position without dinging it for some anticompetitive actions along the way.
Google will pay a fine and go on its merry way until the next challenge.