Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Will the Feds Slow Google’s Shopping Spree? Regulators Take a Closer Look at AdMob.

mrsmithAbout that Google shopping spree, which has seen the company buy six companies since August: It’s actually only four companies so far.

That’s because Google’s plans to buy video compression outfit On2 have been held up by disgruntled shareholders. And the company’s plans to spend $750 million on AdMob, the mobile ad start-up, can’t go through until federal regulators sign off.

That may take a little longer than Google (GOOG) would like. The company announced today that the Federal Trade Commission has asked for more information–formally, a “second request”–as part of its review. From a post on Google’s Public Policy Blog:

…we know that closer scrutiny has been one consequence of Google’s success, and we’ve been talking to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission over the past few weeks. This week we received what’s called a “second request,” which means that the FTC is asking for more information so that they can continue to review the deal.

While this means we won’t be closing right away, we’re confident that the FTC will conclude that the rapidly growing mobile advertising space will remain highly competitive after this deal closes. And we’ll be working closely and cooperatively with them as they continue their review.

Google was well aware that it was going to face regulatory scrutiny on this deal; in fact, CEO Eric Schmidt says the company assumes regulators will now look at every big deal it makes, simply because it’s Google.

And also because Google’s competitors are doing their best to make sure there is regulatory scrutiny. Microsoft (MSFT), which knows a thing or two about regulatory headaches, helped slow down Google’s $3.1 billion purchase of DoubleClick for a very long time. And it’s quite clear that Redmond intends to holler loudly in Washington about other deals. Googlers tell me they also believe AT&T (T) agitates against them.

I’ve tried getting Googlers to guess at how long they think the AdMob deal will take to clear, but they’ve been pretty reluctant to do so. “I thought DoubleClick would take a few months, and it took more than a year,” one would-be bettor told me recently. “I’m not making that mistake again.”

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik