UK watchdog launches probe into Google's $2.6bn Looker acquisition

·Finance and news reporter

The UK’s competition watchdog said on Monday that it had launched an investigation into Google’s $2.6bn acquisition of big-data analytics company Looker.

Google, a division of Alphabet (GOOG), said in June that it was buying the Santa Cruz-based company in order to broaden its cloud services portfolio.

FILE - In this Sept. 24, 2019, file photo a sign is shown on a Google building at their campus in Mountain View, Calif. Google plans offer checking accounts run by Citigroup and a credit union, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)
Google's headquarters in Mountain View, California. Photo: AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

The Competition and Markets Authority said that it was considering whether the e-commerce giant’s investment might constitute a merger, and whether there could be “a substantial lessening of competition” within the United Kingdom as a result.

The authority has set a 20 December deadline for receiving comments from relevant parties.

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Google Cloud, the company’s cloud computing division, trails both Amazon and Microsoft in the realm of data infrastructure services, which have in recent years been a huge growth driver for some of the world’s largest technology companies.

Looker, a privately held company that was founded in 2012, employs around 800 people and had raised as much as $281m in venture capital funding before the Google acquisition.

It was founded with the goal of providing data visualisation and analytics to companies that use complex cloud services, helping them to find the correct deployment of servers and tools.

Both Google and Looker already had a strong existing partnership and 350 common customers, and Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian said in June that the deal would “complete” his division’s analytics services.

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Looker’s solutions will be combined with Google Cloud’s BigQuery offering and its associated data infrastructure tools.

Kurian had suggested that the deal would not face regulatory scrutiny, since the Looker deal involves the acquisition of software, rather than data.

“For any business that is looking for a partner to help drive digital transformation, the combination of Google Cloud and Looker will offer an incredible data management and analytics platform,” Kurian said.