FTC OKs $3.2 billion DoubleClick takeover


The Federal Trade Commission gave permission Thursday for Google to buy DoubleClick, but the $3.2 billion acquisition still needs the approval of European regulators.

In its 4-1 decision, the FTC decided that the acquisition poses little threat to competition, as Microsoft, AT&T and others had argued, and that concerns raised by others over privacy weren't the purview of the FTC.

Some privacy advocates argue that Google will enhance its capabilities of tracking online behavior once it integrates DoubleClick's technology with its own, and that it would abuse that power in the pursuit of boosting advertising profit. Others dismissed such speculation.

"There were no concrete reasons to oppose this move," said Cord Blomquist, an analyst with the Competitive Enterprise Institute. "This acquisition will make the market more competitive by allowing Google to compete with Yahoo in image-based advertising."

Indeed, other technology giants have been snapping up smaller players in the once-more booming Internet advertising industry. Yahoo purchased Right Media for $680 million and BlueLithium for $300 million; Microsoft has agreed buy aQauantive for $6 billion; and AOL paid an undisclosed amount for Tacoda. Plus WPP Group, a more traditional advertising firm, bought 24/7 Real Media for $649 million.

The one dissenting vote at the FTC was from Commissioner Pamela Harbour, who wrote that she worries about "the transformative role the combined Google/DoubleClick will play if the proposed acquisition is consummated."

DoubleClick has had a short and volatile history. The company was an early player in Internet advertising and its stock soared past $200 a share during the bubble era. After crashing, the company was purchased in 2005 by private equity firms Hellman & Friedman and JMI Equity Fund for $8.50 a share, or $1.1 billion, just more than a third of what Google agreed to pay.