Sep 29, 2020
Google makes new offer to EU in bid to win Fitbit deal approval
Google made more concessions to European Union antitrust regulators in an attempt to allay concerns over its US$2.1 billion takeover of health tracker Fitbit Inc. before regulators escalate their review.
The search giant made a second offer to the European Commission on Monday that could help to avert a so-called statement of objections, or SO, cataloging potential antitrust problems with the deal.
Google didn’t respond to a request for comment Tuesday about the commitments it was offering. Such offers are usually sent out to rivals and customers for feedback before regulators decide if they are good enough to solve antitrust concerns on a deal. The commission in Brussels declined to comment.
The new offer needs to go further than concessions Google made in July to create a so-called data silo to keep some Fitbit data separate from other Google datasets. That would keep health data from trackers separate from Google profiles of internet users to serve them ads they might find attractive. The EU dismissed that pledge last month, saying it didn’t address all its concerns and didn’t include all Fitbit data that could be used for advertising.
Companies typically wait for the objections before making concessions. But avoiding an SO in the second phase of a deal review is a sure sign of impending approval. The EU has a Dec. 23 deadline to decide on the transaction.
Antitrust agencies are increasingly suspicious of tech giants’ takeovers, aiming to prevent the already powerful firms from conquering innovative new markets where data is often the most prized asset.
The EU opened an in-depth probe into the Fitbit deal last month to check how Google could bolster its “data advantage” in online advertising with information it collects from Fitbit’s wearable trackers.
The EU’s wide focus on online ads clashes with Google’s view that the “deal is about devices, not data” and that it’s adding a service -- wearable health devices -- where it currently isn’t active and faces plenty of rivals from Apple Inc., Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., Garmin Ltd. and others.