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Google Faces Midnight Deadline for EU Antitrust Settlement Offer

Jan. 31 (Bloomberg) -- Google Inc. faces an informal midnight deadline to submit a settlement offer to European Union regulators in Brussels in a bid to avert possible fines for discriminating against rivals.

The world’s biggest search engine company and the European Commission both declined to confirm a report by regulatory news agency MLex that said earlier today an offer was made, without citing any sources or giving any details.

EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia has asked Google to submit concessions in January. He first told the company in May that he wanted it to settle the case. He said yesterday that Google hadn’t yet made a final offer and he could “imagine that the proposals are flying” to the antitrust agency’s offices before the end of the month.

Antoine Colombani, a spokesman for the EU, declined to comment on the matter earlier today, beyond saying that that there is no legally binding deadline for the commission to conclude its case. He didn’t respond to further calls and e-mails seeking comment on a possible offer.

Almunia has urged the company to address four points, including allegations that the company promotes its own specialist search services, copies rivals’ travel and restaurant reviews, and has agreements with websites and software developers that stifle competition in the advertising industry.

Al Verney, a spokesman for Google, declined to comment on whether an offer had been filed. He said the company continues to work cooperatively with EU regulators.

While Almunia has said settlement talks can’t last indefinitely, he hasn’t said what would happen if Google missed the January target for making a settlement offer.

Google, based in Mountain View, California, is “pursuing a potential resolution that would avoid a finding of infringement and a fine,” the company said in a regulatory filing earlier this week.

To contact the reporter on this story: Aoife White in Brussels at awhite62@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net.

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