Reports Emerge that Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) has Offered to Settle EU Antitrust Probe
NEW YORK – Reports emerged from Europe on Sunday night that Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) has given European Union regulators a new proposal to settle a nearly three-year-old EU antitrust investigation into the way it operates its search services. In an interview on Bloomberg Television, EU Competition Commissioner, Joaquin Almunia, said that ‘we received new proposals from Google in the previous week and if we are satisfied with the new proposals, we can advance toward an agreed solution in the coming months.’
The news could help Google to avoid the possibly disastrous consequences of the EU’s antitrust investigation, which make the company to divest or stop offering some of their services in the EU. An agreement, depending on the terms, would be seen as a setback for Google’s competitors, such as Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) who have pushed the European Union to seek tough concessions. In July, the Competition Commission rejected Google’s offer to label its branded search services and show links to rival specialized search services.
According to Almunia, the commission still needs to complete their analysis of the offer. The EU is currently investigating Google in connection to the way the firm promotes its own specialist search services, such as Google News and Google Finance, copies rivals’ travel and restaurant reviews, and has agreements with websites and software developers that stifle competition in the advertising industry.
In a related story, Almunia said that the commission received an offer from Google partner (but increasingly a competitor) Samsung (KS:005930). Samsung is attempting to settle a separate investigation over antitrust violations in relation to their essential technology patents to block the sale of Apple (NASDAW:AAPL) products within the EU. The investigation was spurred on by Samsung’s attempts to seek injunctions against Apple in several European countries. The decision in the Samsung investigation could also impact a separate investigation into Motorola Mobility – a division of Google.
While it is too early to know the result, investors would welcome the news of a potential settlement in the EU antitrust investigations as it would help to define the playing field in the fast-changing technology space. If Google’s offer were accepted, if so this could be a setback to their competitors who were seeking measures that are more draconian in an attempt to limit Google’s ever-growing control of the internet. Google shares closed Friday at $ 879.22, down slightly from an all-time high reached during trading of $ 883.78.