The Financial Times is reporting that EU competition commissioner Joaquin Almunia has made up his mind on Microsoft’s proposed acquisition of Skype – and that he’s giving it the go-ahead.
According to the paper, the EU plans to clear the $8.5 billion deal without imposing any conditions and without calling for a second-phase investigation.
The deal was approved by US antitrust regulators in June. While it’s still awaiting approval from Taiwan, Serbia, Ukraine and Russia, EU agreement was seen as the one serious hurdle to remain.
The deal is Microsoft’s biggest-ever takeover, and will allow the company’s new Windows Phone platform to compete directly with Google and Apple smartphones, which already offer video chat.
Opponents of the takeover had argued that Microsoft’s plans to bundle Skype with Windows would inhibit competition. It’s an argument that held force when the company proposed to bundle its internet browser in a similar way.
But Microsoft, it seems, has persuaded Almunia that by making Skype available for other platforms, such as the Mac OS and Android, there would be plenty of opportunity for rivals to compete.
Rivals such as italy’s Messagenet also demanded assurances that Skype would be interoperable with their own systems – an argument that Micrososoft rejected, saying that open access would be impracticable and overly-onerous – and argument that the EU appears to have acecpted.
The decision’s likely to be made public tomorrow.