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Google: Motorola's No Antitrust Worry

Stocks in this article: GOOG MMI AAPL

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. ( TheStreet) -- Google (GOOG), of course, is quite sure that its $12.5 billion purchase of Motorola Mobility (MMI) will get rubber-stamped by regulators, despite the search giant facing heightened antitrust scrutiny in recent months.

"We're quite confident that this will be approved," said David Drummond, Google's chief legal officer, during a conference call before market open on Monday. "We believe, very simply, that this is a pro-competitive transaction."

Analysts think a little differently. Brian White, an analyst at Ticonderoga Securities, told TheStreet that regulators are likely to be all over the Motorola acquisition.

"I expect that they will give Google a rough time," he said. "In the PC market Google dominates search, and now it's trying to dominate mobile, so that will raise some questions."

The deal is Google's biggest-ever acquisition and should give it a big leg up in the booming smartphone market, where its Android operating system is locked in a fierce battle with Apple's (AAPL) iOS.

Google already faces lots of regulatory scrutiny, confirming in June that it is the subject of an antitrust investigation by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Last week The Wall Street Journal reported that regulators are focusing their investigation on the search giant's Android mobile-phone software and Web-search related services.

The Journal said that FTC lawyers, in conjunction with several state attorneys general, have been asking whether Google prevents smartphone makers that use Android from using competitors' services.

Motorola's 17,500 Android patents are at the core of Google's bid for the handset maker, marking an attempt to significantly bolster the Internet giant's modest patent portfolio.

"Google has not materially been in the handset market before," said Drummond on the conference call. "We certainly believe that this is a competitive transaction."

Drummond added that the Motorola deal will boost competition in the Android market, as well as fuel innovation.

Ticonderoga's White said it could be some time before Google gets the all-clear from regulators. "That's probably why Google says that deal will close late this year or early in 2012," he added.

The FTC has looked favorably on previous Google acquisitions, which were much smaller in size than Monday's deal. Google's $750 million purchase of mobile advertising specialist AdMob received government approval earlier this year, as did its $3.1 billion deal for DoubleClick in late 2007.

White also said that Google's move could also prompt a flurry of further acquisitions in the smartphone space. "The Google and Motorola Mobility combination could spur other handset deals," he wrote in a note Monday. "With a transaction such as this, investors may wonder if Research in Motion (RIMM), Nokia (NOK), and HTC could also be potential acquisition targets.

White cites RIM and Nokia as the most obvious targets, although he said the likeliest acquirer would be a "broader IT company" as opposed to a handset maker. There has already been chatter that Microsoft (MSFT) should buy RIM or Nokia.

Despite acquisitions typically driving down the share price of the purchasing company, investors were largely unperturbed by Google's Motorola Mobility deal. The search giant's shares were down just $6, or 1.06%, to $557.77 by mid-morning on Monday. Motorola Mobility's stock leapt $13.90, 56.8%, to $38.37.

--Written by James Rogers in New York.

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