LIVE FROM GSMA MOBILE 360 EUROPE: Pierre Louette, Orange deputy CEO, called for a rethink when it comes to regulatory reviews of large-scale technology deals, in light of Microsoft’s proposed $26.2 billion acquisition of LinkedIn.
The shock deal, announced yesterday, will see Microsoft splash out cash to acquire the social network giant, in a move touted as a combination of the world’s foremost professional cloud and professional networking companies.
Speaking of the deal at m360 Europe in Brussels, Louette doubted whether the acquisition will face a high level of scrutiny from regulators because “you have a company like Microsoft buying a company that apparently lives in a different world”, as he recalled Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp a few years ago, which took only a month to go through.
“The whole essence of the deal is around data profiles and access to consumers, which is why they are paying so much,” he said. “Compare this to Europe, if any company in the telecoms world wants to buy another company it could take up to a year to go though. We recently went through the European Commission’s regulatory process in Spain [with Jazztel], and we were able to convince commissioner Vestager to allow us to proceed. This is not the case in other situations, as we have seen recently in the UK.”
Louette called on regulators to develop software that now not only looked into market share and turnover, but also considered profiles, page views and data production, “all of which have the essence of value creation in the new world”.
“It is important to have a rethink otherwise we are using yesterday’s tools in a new world,” he added.
In another session at the event, Telenor’s Sverre Holt Francati, SVP of group regulatory affairs, also had an opinion on the deal.
“I haven’t done the regulatory analysis of what would happen if we acquired LinkedIn, but I would assume we would have a lot more problems than Microsoft will have, he said. “At least the value for us in what we could do with the data would be limited.”