Microsoft Clears Antitrust Hurdle in aQuantive Acquisition - TheStreet

Microsoft Clears Antitrust Hurdle in aQuantive Acquisition

Regulators forgo seeking additional information.
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The Federal Trade Commission apparently agreed with

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

that its $6 billion acquisition of

aQuantive

(AQNT)

raises fewer red flags than

Google's

(GOOG) - Get Report

buyout of DoubleClick.

The FTC has tacitly approved the

aQuantive deal by allowing its 30-day investigation period to pass without requesting further information, said Microsoft spokesman Guy Esnouf.

"It could have issued a second request and gone into it further, as the FTC has done with the Google-DoubleClick acquisition," he said.

"We believe these are very different transactions," Esnouf said. The

DoubleClick acquisition raises competition and privacy issues. "They really do demand closer scrutiny."

Google issued a statement on Friday saying, "The FTC did not 'extend' its 30-day review period."

In June, the FTC made a "second request" for more information regarding the Google-DoubleClick acquisition, "which is a fairly common step for acquisitions of this size," Google said. "We are cooperating with that request as the FTC's review of the acquisition continues."

"We are confident that upon further review the FTC will conclude that Google's acquisition of DoubleClick poses no risk to competition and should be approved," Don Harrison, senior corporate counsel for Google, stated in an email response.

"Numerous independent analysts and academics have determined after looking at this acquisition that the online advertising industry is a dynamic and evolving space -- as evidenced by a number of recently announced acquisitions -- and that rich competition in this industry will bring more relevant ads to consumers and more choices for advertisers and website publishers," Harrison stated.

Shares of Seattle-based aQuantive were up 88 cents, or 1.4%, to $65.75 Friday afternoon. Microsoft was down 19 cents, or 0.6% to $29.80.

While Microsoft still does not have a regulatory green light, neither does it have a red light, said Microsoft's Esnouf, although several other countries still must sign off on the merger. The Redmond, Wash.-based software giant expects the deal to close before the end of 2007, Esnouf said.

The American Association of Advertising Agencies and the Association of National Advertisers reportedly had sent a letter in June asking the FTC to investigate such deals, which consolidate online advertising software tools and platforms in the hands of powerful Internet companies.

Spokespeople for the AAAA and ANA were not immediately available for comment.