Facebook to win EU approval for $19 billion WhatsApp bid: sources

Thu Sep 25, 2014 12:06pm EDT
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By Foo Yun Chee

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Facebook (FB.O: Quote), the world's leading social network, will win unconditional EU approval for its $19 billion offer for mobile messaging startup WhatsApp in a deal pitting it against telecoms operators, two people familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

The landmark acquisition, the largest in Facebook's 10-year history, will give the company a firm foothold in the fast-growing mobile messaging market.

A plan by WhatsApp to add free voice-call services for its 450 million customers later this year, however, makes it a potentially powerful competitor to companies such as Deutsche Telekom (DTEGn.DE: Quote), Telecom Italia (TLIT.MI: Quote) and Telefonica (TEF.MC: Quote).

Analysts said the move is likely to hit telecoms providers' turnover as the industry heads into its fifth year of revenue decline. The sector had looked to EU regulators to extract concessions from Facebook.

Facebook convinced the Commission that the deal had no anti-competitive effect and, therefore, concessions were not necessary, the sources said.

"It's unconditional clearance," one of the people said, declining to be named because the decision by the European Commission was not yet public.

Commission spokesman Antoine Colombani declined to comment. The European Union competition authority has set an Oct. 3 deadline for its decision.

The deal does not seem to pose any competition problems as far as the Commission is concerned, said Tobias Caspary, a partner at law firm Fried Frank.   Continued...

An illustration photo shows a WhatsApp messenger logo on a screen behind a Facebook logo in Zenica February 20, 2014. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic