Facebook’s WhatsApp Takeover Faces Speedy Review by EU

Facebook Inc. won’t face a lengthy European Union antitrust probe of its planned $19 billion purchase of messaging service WhatsApp Inc., EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said.

“The final decision will not take a long time,” Almunia told Bloomberg TV in an interview in Cernobbio, Italy on Sept. 6. “It’s not the most difficult merger that we have dealt with.”

The proposed cash-and-stock acquisition would be the biggest by Facebook, the world’s largest social network, and gives WhatsApp roughly the same valuation as Gap Inc. and more than half the market value of microblogging service Twitter Inc.

The EU merger investigation won’t handle privacy concerns, Almunia said. While privacy “is a very important issue,” it is not dealt with by antitrust or merger rules in the EU, he said.

One of the EU’s 28 privacy regulators flagged potential concerns in February over the collection of data from phones when WhatsApp software is downloaded.

EU regulators have an initial deadline of Oct. 3 to rule on the deal. They can then decide clear the takeover or open an extended probe of up to four months to examine potential antitrust concerns.