The European Union has given the green light to Microsoft’s acquisition of professional social networking site LinkedIn.
The Redmond firm has also received clearance from the United States, Canada, Brazil and South Africa, handing the software giant all of the regulatory approvals it needs to complete the $26-billion transaction.
The EU’s regulatory arm, the European Commission, approved the deal this week, but only after Microsoft made a handful of minor concessions that protect competition between professional social networks in Europe.
“As part of our discussions with the European Commission, we formalized several commitments regarding Microsoft’s support for third-party professional social networking services,” Microsoft chief legal officer Brad Smith wrote in a blog post. “With this regulatory process behind us, we can bring together two great companies and focus on even broader issues for the future.”
Microsoft promised the European Commission it would:
- Give its rivals access to its Office add-ins program, enabling developers to integrate their services into Microsoft Outlook, Word, PowerPoint and Excel. As improvements are made to the program, the improvements will be available to third-party professional social networking services as well.
- Make promotional opportunities in the Office Store available to third-party professional social networking services.
- Ensure IT administrators and users can customize their Office experience by choosing if they wish to display in the user interface the LinkedIn profile and activity information that may be integrated in the future.
- Not force PC manufacturers to install any future LinkedIn application or tile created for Windows PCs. Users would also be able to uninstall the application if they wish.
- Not enter into agreements with European PC manufacturers for pre-installation of a Windows LinkedIn application or tile that would favor LinkedIn on an exclusive basis.
Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said Microsoft’s concessions addressed all of the EU’s concerns.
“A growing number of Europeans subscribe to professional social networks,” Vestager said in a press release. “These networks are important for professionals to connect and interact and to find new career opportunities. Today’s decision ensures that Europeans will continue to enjoy a freedom of choice between professional social networks.”
The European Commission’s decision to give the Microsft-LinkedIn deal the go-ahead will not make Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff happy. Benioff had been pushing for an official investigation into the proposed acquisition and advised regulators to block the deal. Benioff’s company, which also tried to acquire the professional social networking firm, has been one of the most outspoken parties against the transaction. Salesforce has been adamant that it and other rivals would not be given access to LinkedIn’s dataset of users.
Salesforce’s concerns were obviously not shared by the European Commission, however, and may have been viewed as sour grapes for losing out to Microsoft on the deal.
With the last of the regulatory approvals under its belt, the Microsoft-LinkedIn deal will close “in the coming days,” Smith said.
“With the combination of Microsoft and LinkedIn, we can take new steps to help people learn added skills and seek better jobs,” Smith wrote. “We readily recognize that no single company can come close to solving the many economic challenges that confront the world today. Perhaps more than anything else, governments will need to continue to innovate across a wide array of education, training and labor policies. And across the private and public sectors, we all will need to come together and act with a sense of shared responsibility. There’s no shortage of work – or opportunity – ahead of us.”