Tuesday, May 29, 2007
The N.Y. Times is today reporting that the Federal Trade Commission has opened a preliminary antitrust investigation into Google’s agreed $3.1 billion purchase of DoubleClick, the on-line ad agency. The review only started after the FTC and Justice Department settled a turf war over who could conduct the review. I guess even regulators think Google is hot.
The report is one of a non-event. The FTC review is standard procedure to determine if the agency will initiate a second request. The second request is actually where the FTC will, if it makes one, initiate a more extended review. Still, AT&T, Microsoft and other industry leaders have been lobbying the government for a thorough antitrust review of this deal. And a number of internet non-profits, such as the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a privacy rights group, have been lobbying for government scrutiny based on privacy concerns. The latter is a non-starter for the FTC; the privacy issue is really one for Congress. But still, there has been a flurry of activity in this industry space: WPP has agreed to acquire 24/7 Real Media for $649 million and Microsoft has agreed to acquire aQuantive for $6 billion. I'm no antitrust expert and do not know this market or Google's market-share, but the politics and situation here point towards a second request. I'd also expect Google to try the same thing and turn the tables for Microsoft's aQuantive deal.