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The Federal Trade Commission has launched an antitrust investigation into Google’s planned acquisition of online advertising company DoubleClick for $3.1bn.

Competitors, including Microsoft and AT&T, have complained that the deal would give Google a dominant position in internet advertising.

Privacy advocates have also criticised it as providing Google with too much data on the web habits of users.

The FTC made no announcement but confirmed reports that an investigation was underway, with an official “second request” being made for information about the deal.

Google said in a statement on Tuesday that the acquisition posed “no risk to competition and should be approved”.

“Numerous independent analysts and academics have determined after looking at this acquisition that the online advertising industry is a dynamic and evolving space – as evidenced by a number of recently announced acquisitions – and that rich competition in this industry will bring more relevant ads to consumers and more choices for advertisers and Web site publishers,” said Don Harrison, Google’s senior corporate counsel.

Microsoft had said it was maintaining its objections even after its announcement of the larger $6bn acquisition of Aquantive, the full-service online advertising company, this month.

Brad Smith, Microsoft general counsel, said: “Google and DoubleClick in contrast have strongly overlapping businesses in serving ads to third-party web publishers on the internet. We believe that acquisition will give that combined entity 80 per cent or more market share.”

Scott Kessler, analyst with Standard & Poor’s, said he was not surprised at the FTC scrutiny but that criticism from internet and media companies and privacy groups was unlikely to scuttle the deal: “We think Google would consider additional privacy measures to complete the transaction.”

Google shares were 1 per cent higher at $488.53 in midday trading in New York.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.
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