This story was written by David Kaplan.
European Commission regulators are prepared to give Google's $3.1 billion acquisition of online advertising firm DoubleClick the go-ahead next week, FT reported, citing an unidentified source. The commission had recently set the deadline for a ruling by April, after previous deadlines issued for last October - and then November - came and went. The EC's approval is likely to come without any major conditions, although officials had voiced concerns about the impact the merger would have on users' privacy. Google (NSDQ: GOOG) representatives did not respond to questions about whether they've been told it will receive approval.
European regulators expanded their examination of the merger last fall in the wake of a rising tide of complaints from privacy advocates, as well as concerns about potential anti-trust violations. Nevertheless, the process was widely viewed as a formality and that regulators' approval was hardly ever in doubt. One of the signs that suggested the merger was on a clear path to approval was seen by the lack of an official "statement of objections," which would have provided a clear signal that the deal was in trouble. After the U.S. Federal Trade Commission's late December ruling found that the combination of Google and DoubleClick would not run afoul of anti-trust rules, it became increasingly unlikely that the Europeans would come to a different conclusion.
That's not to say that Google took approval for granted, though some might argue that they've only offered token steps to address the concerns of internet-rights groups. Attempting to assuage privacy fears, Google has promised to keep personally-identifiable search logs for less time. The company would also explore other methods of collecting less information through DoubleClicks' cookies, though no formal changes have been issued yet.
By David Kaplan