Google's Buying Spree Rankles Rivals -- and Antitrust Regulators

The jury is still out on whether Google's (GOOG) latest shopping spree will end up benefiting shareholders. But a few things already seem certain. The search giant's purchases will raise skeptical eyebrows among regulators and potential partners alike. And archrival Microsoft (MSFT) -- which has worked behind the scenes to paint Google as too big a force to go unchecked -- will again do all it can to fan the flames of suspicion surrounding Google's growing clout.%%DynaPub-Enhancement class="enhancement contentType-HTML Content fragmentId-1 payloadId-61603 alignment-right size-small"%%On Wednesday, Google said the FTC has asked for more information surrounding its $750 million November purchase of mobile ad play AdMob as part of a "second request." The deal might take longer to close as a result.

Though Google tried to play down the hiccup, some perennial critics have already jumped in with fresh jabs at the search giant. "I must respectfully challenge your re-assertion that you 'don't see any regulatory issues with this deal,' given that the FTC's second request indicates there must be 'some' at least," longtime Google antagonist and Precursor analyst Scott Cleland notes on Google's public policy blog.

Making Advertisers Nervous

As Google's takeover machine picks up steam, discomfort among industry participants will only grow. The giant's upcoming targets may include start-ups in the so-called demand-side platform sector, companies that help advertisers better allocate their spending among a growing roster of online ad exchanges.

But Google and Microsoft already operate prominent exchanges that many demand-side platforms pick and choose from. A Google acquisition could make advertisers nervous about Google's objectivity and access to information, among other things, some online ad industry executives say.

Indeed, Google's November acquisition of ad optimization company Teracent is already causing some concern among other leading start-ups, and Google partners that now see Google as a "frenemy."

Microsoft, AT&T Set Obstacles in Google's Path

Microsoft -- whose protests helped turn Google's $3.1 billion acquisition of DoubleClick into a messy, drawn-out process -- is poised to capitalize on the growing uneasiness, according to some reports. The high prices Google is willing to shell out make the Redmond, Wash.-based behemoth the only other viable acquirer for its targets, and regulators are likely to scrutinize deals much more closely because of this "antitrust premium," according to these reports.

And with Google's reported $500 million bid for local information company Yelp suddenly on hold, Microsoft may be mulling over ways to take advantage of the friction between the two companies. Telecom giant AT&T (T), which has had showdowns with Google on hot-button policy issues such as net neutrality, may also be trying to use its clout in Washington, D.C., to create hurdles, some Google executives believe.

Whether the companies on Google's shopping list are wise purchases or not, its planned acquisitions may prove much more difficult to pull off as a result of all these impediments.
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