CMA clears Google/Looker deal

Written by Peter Walker
14/02/20

Following a thorough review, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has cleared Google’s purchase of Looker Data Sciences.

The ruling noted that both firms supply business intelligence (BI) tools, but while these are the primary focus of Looker’s business, Google offers this capability alongside various other software and internet-based products and services, including web analytics, online search advertising and cloud-based data storage.

The CMA’s decision to clear the deal follows an extensive Phase 1 review, exploring the different ways in which the completed merger could adversely affect competition.

Firstly, the CMA considered whether the loss of direct competition between Google and Looker in the supply of BI tools could lead to increased prices or reductions in quality – finding this was unlikely because Google and Looker are not considered close competitors by businesses using BI tools, which can still choose from other providers like Microsoft, Oracle, Tableau, SAP and IBM.

Secondly, the regulator considered whether Google could leverage its market power in online advertising and web analytics to drive rival BI providers out of the market. It found that although Google had the ability to make it difficult for rivals to access the Google-generated data they need from online advertising and web analytics services, there was “no strong evidence” they would have the incentive to do this.

The deal was also investigated and cleared by the US Department of Justice and the Austrian Federal Competition Authority. The CMA cooperated closely with both authorities through the course of its investigation.

This case is the second merger investigation carried out by the CMA in the business intelligence sector in a matter of months, following scrutiny of Salesforce’s acquisition of Tableau; which was also cleared.