EU Antitrust Agency Suspends Google’s $12.4 Billion Buy-Out of Motorola Mobility

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BRUSSELS—The European Union antitrust authority used a rare “time-out” legal procedure Dec. 12 and put on hold the current first-phase inquiry into Google's $12.4 billion buy out of the smartphone division Motorola Mobility.

European Commission spokeswoman Amelia Torres confirmed Dec. 13 that the EU antitrust authority has requested more documentation from Google and therefore suspended the deadline for reaching a decision on whether or not the takeover would be approved or would have to undergo a second stage probe, which normally means concessions are necessary to get approval.

“The deadline is suspended because the Commission needs from Google certain documents that are essential to the evaluation of the transaction,” Torres said. “This was done in accordance with Article 1193 of the merger regulation. Once the Commission has all the necessary information, it will restart the clock and publish a new Phase I deadline.”

Despite the time out procedure, Google insisted it was not concerned.

“The European Commission has asked for more information, which is routine, while they review our Motorola Mobility acquisition,” Google spokesman Al Verney told BNA. “We are confident the Commission will conclude that this acquisition is good for competition and we will be working closely and cooperatively with them as they continue their review.”

Google Subject of Separate Probe.

The EU antitrust authority adopted the “time-out” legal procedure nearly a decade after several controversial antitrust cases, such as the General Electric takeover of Honeywell Corp., were blocked.

Based on EU antitrust rules the Commission must decide within four months of a merger notification whether or not it will approve a deal or launch a second stage probe, which also must be completed within four months.

Normally the “time-out” procedure is used in antitrust cases that go into the second stage phase. Torres said this is only the seventh time since 2004 that the clock has been stopped in a first phase antitrust inquiry.

The hold on the Google takeover of Motorola Mobility comes as the Commission continues its antitrust probe into Google to weigh accusations that the world’s largest search engine manipulates its search rankings at the expense of competitors. Microsoft and a host of other smaller search engines companies have filed the complaint.