The European Commission (EC) has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the proposed acquisition of LinkedIn by Microsoft.
The decision is conditional on compliance with a series of commitments aimed at preserving competition between professional social networks in Europe.
The EC said that Microsoft and LinkedIn are mainly active in complementary business areas, except for minor overlaps in online advertising. The Commission looked at whether, after the merger, Microsoft could use its strong market position in operating systems (Windows) for personal computers (PCs) and productivity software (including Outlook, Word, Excel and Power Point) to strengthen LinkedIn's position among professional social networks.
With respect to online advertising services, the companies' activities only overlap in relation to display advertising. However, given their very limited combined market share in the EEA, as well as the fragmented nature of the market, the Commission excluded any competition concerns arising from the combination of the parties' online non-search service activities.
To address the competition concerns identified by the Commission in the professional social network services market, Microsoft offered a series of commitments. These commitments include:
- ensuring that PC manufacturers and distributors would be free not to install LinkedIn on Windows and allowing users to remove LinkedIn from Windows should PC manufacturers and distributors decide to preinstall it.
- allowing competing professional social network service providers to maintain current levels of interoperability with Microsoft's Office suite of products through the so-called Office add-in program and Office application programming interfaces.
- granting competing professional social network service providers access to "Microsoft Graph", a gateway for software developers. It is used to build applications and services that can, subject to user consent, access data stored in the Microsoft cloud, such as contact information, calendar information, emails, etc. Software developers can potentially use this data to drive subscribers and usage to their professional social networks.
The commitments will apply in the EEA for a period of five years and will be monitored by a trustee.
These commitments address the competition concerns identified by the Commission. The Commission therefore concluded that the proposed transaction, as modified by the commitments, would no longer raise competition concerns.