Data May Be Key in Microsoft-LinkedIn Probe, EU’s Vestager Says

  • Competition chief says EU paying ‘lot of attention’ to data
  • Microsoft says it will seek EU, U.S. approval for deal

Any probe into Microsoft Corp.’s acquisition of professional social network LinkedIn Corp. is likely to focus on the tie-up’s potential to leverage vast amounts of user data, the European Union’s antitrust chief said Friday.

The European Commission would look at whether “the data purchased in the deal has a very long durability and might constitute a barrier for others, or if they can be replicated so that others stand a chance to enter the market,” Margrethe Vestager said.

“We’ve done that kind of analysis in the past and it’s something we’re generally paying a lot of attention to,” she said in an interview in Copenhagen Friday.

The Dane, who took office at the end of 2014, has signaled a willingness to delve more into how merging companies leverage the treasure trove of data at their disposal. Data was one of the key considerations in the review of Facebook Inc.’s takeover of messaging service WhatsApp Inc., even though her predecessor in the end concluded there were no data-usage concerns.

No Problems Yet

Vestager warned earlier this year that even though the regulator hasn’t found a data competition problem yet, “this doesn’t mean we never will.”

James Cakmak, an analyst at Monness Crespi Hardt & Co., said that from a data standpoint, the WhatsApp purchase “warranted greater scrutiny” than the LinkedIn deal.

“LinkedIn has roughly 100 million members in Europe, compared to about 350 million Facebook users in Europe,” he said. “The trajectory of growth of WhatsApp was significantly different to that of LinkedIn.”

Microsoft will acquire LinkedIn for about $26.2 billion, one of the largest technology-industry deals on record, as the maker of Windows and Office software attempts to put itself at the center of people’s business lives. The deal is a way for Microsoft, which largely missed out on the consumer web boom dominated by the likes of Google and Facebook, to sprint ahead in social tools -- in this case, for professionals.

When it announced the deal, Microsoft outlined a vision in which a person’s LinkedIn profile resides at the middle of other pieces of their work life, connecting with Windows, Outlook, Skype, Office productivity tools like Excel and PowerPoint, and other Microsoft products.

Microsoft said on June 13 its bid for LinkedIn will require regulatory approval in the EU, U.S., Canada and Brazil and that it’s confident of closing the transaction before the end of the year. The company’s press office had no further comment Friday.

LinkedIn’s analytics will help power data tools for Microsoft’s Dynamics, which competes with Salesforce.com Inc. in helping companies manage relationships with their customers.

Salesforce.com was a rival potential bidder for LinkedIn in the process leading up to the acquisition by Microsoft, according to people familiar with the matter.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.
LEARN MORE