Salesforce Asks For EU Antitrust Probe Over Microsoft LinkedIn Purchase

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Sour grapes? Salesforce lost its bid for LinkedIn, but now asks EU to investigate Microsoft

One of the bidders for the business social networking website LinkedIn, has asked the European Commission officials to step in.

Salesforce has urged European authorities to conduct an antitrust probe of Microsoft, saying the deal threatens competition and innovation.

Sour Grapes?

In June this year Microsoft beat four other rivals including Salesforce to acquire LinkedIn for $26.2 billion (£18bn).

Other bidders were thought to have been Google, Facebook, and IBM.

An SEC filing showed that Microsoft in fact did not offer the most money for LinkedIn, but its offer of $196 a share was an all cash offering. Salesforce on the other hand actually offered more, said to be $200 a share, but this was deal would have been part stock and part cash.

LinkedIn PeopleAnd it seems that three months later after losing the bidding war, Salesforce is not all happy and believes the deal gives Redmond too much control over the social-networking company’s vast pool of data.

Indeed, according to the The Wall Street Journal, Salesforce continued to submit bids after Microsoft and LinkedIn had already entered into an exclusive deal.

Chief Executive Marc Benioff even apparently sent an email to LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner, saying he would have offered a “much higher” price had LinkedIn continued talks with him after its call for final offers.

And although Salesforce has not launched an official complaint yet, it is clear it is not at all pleased with LinkedIn’s decision to opt for Microsoft.

“By gaining ownership of LinkedIn’s unique dataset of over 450 million professionals in more than 200 countries, Microsoft will be able to deny competitors access to that data, and in doing so obtain an unfair competitive advantage,” Burke Norton, Salesforce’s chief legal officer, was quoted as saying in a statement to Reuters.

“Salesforce believes this raises significant antitrust and data privacy issues that need to be fully scrutinized by competition and data privacy authorities in the United States and in the European Union,” he reportedly said.

US Approval

But Microsoft was quick to hit back and pointed that the acquisition has already received regulatory approval in the United States.

“Salesforce may not be aware, but the deal has already been cleared to close in the United States, Canada, and Brazil,” said Brad Smith, Microsoft’s president and chief legal officer. “We’re committed to continuing to work to bring price competition to a CRM market in which Salesforce is the dominant participant charging customers higher prices today.”

It is understood that Microsoft has not yet registered the deal with European Competition Authorities, but the EC has previously indicated it would scrutinise deals that allowed companies to obtain large amounts of personal data.

LinkedIn has approximately 450 million users and its data is potentially valuable to both Microsoft and Salesforce as both firms seeking to bolster their artificial intelligence capabilities.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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