US watchdog finally clears Google-AdMob deal

Internet giant Google will have to thank its rival Apple for getting the US federal regulator clearance for its $750-million acquisition of mobile advertising firm AdMob after consumer advocacy groups had asked the US Federal Trade Commission to block it.

The Federal Trade Commission said yesterday that although the combination of the two leading mobile advertising networks had raised serious antitrust issues, but the agency's concerns ultimately were overshadowed by Apple's recent entry into the $600 million mobile advertising market.

The Cupertino, California-based Apple had acquired mobile advertising company Quattro Wireless for a reported $275 million in late November 2009, but had kept the acquisition under wraps until January 2010 as it waited to see the outcome of the Google-AdMob deal. (See: Apple challenges Google by acquiring mobile ad firm Quattro Wireless)

The FTC had delayed ruling on the Google-AdMob deal after two US-based consumer advocacy groups, Consumer Watchdog and the Center for Digital Democracy, had asked it to block the proposed acquisition as the deal would "substantially lessen competition in the increasingly important mobile advertising market." (See: Consumer advocacy groups oppose Google buying AdMob)

In a joint letter to the FTC, the groups said Google's acquisition of AdMob would be harmful to consumers, advertisers and application developers, among others and called upon the FTC to use the appropriate statutory and regulatory authority to oppose the merger.

Founded in 2006, AdMob is focused on selling and serving display ads on mobile browsers. However, much of its recent growth has come from mobile applications - an area where iPhone and iPod Touch devices dominate.