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EU Examining Google-DoubleClick Bid

The European Commission said Monday it would take until Nov. 13 to examine Google Inc.'s $3.1 billion bid for online ad tracker DoubleClick to review its proposals meant to eliminate antitrust concerns.

Google lawyer Julia Holtz said the world's largest search engine had committed to keep certain DoubleClick business practices unchanged. She did not give details.

"We believe that the deal is good for publishers, advertisers, and users -- and we trust that the Commission will reach the same conclusion and clear the transaction," she said. "Today's advertising market is highly competitive and innovative, and it is evolving very quickly."

The Nov. 13 deadline is for the EU to clear the deal or decide to open an in-depth probe that can take up to four months.

Rivals Yahoo Inc. and Microsoft Corp. say the deal will damage fair competition in the growing Internet advertising market.

New York-based DoubleClick helps its customers place and track online advertising, including search ads, which Google -- more than its nearest search competitors Yahoo and Microsoft Corp. -- has turned into an extremely lucrative business.

It places ads on Web pages that targeted consumers are likely to use, generating money for smaller publishers and lesser-visited pages.

Yahoo's head of European public policy, Andrew Cecil, said last week that combining the two companies would strengthen Google's dominant position in Europe and damage the online ad landscape.

"The end result will be higher prices for Internet publishers and advertisers and less choice for European consumers," he said.

Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith told a U.S. Senate hearing last month that the deal should be blocked because it would enable Google to "become the overwhelmingly dominant pipeline for all forms of online advertising" with "sole control over the largest database of user information the world has ever known."

Microsoft tried to acquire DoubleClick itself, but lost out to Google in April.

Consumer advocates have also raised privacy concerns, but EU antitrust regulators have hinted that they do not plan to examine these in detail.

David Drummond, chief legal officer at Google, told the U.S. Senate that the acquisition will not hurt competition because the online search leader doesn't compete directly with DoubleClick.

Unlike Google, DoubleClick does not sell advertising, but instead provides technology and services to companies seeking to place display ads online, Drummond said, citing other deals as proof that competition in the Internet ad market is robust.

Microsoft agreed earlier this year to pay $6 billion for Seattle-based online advertising firm aQuantive Inc. and Yahoo Inc. bought Right Media Inc. for $680 million.

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