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US regulators deepen Google mobile ad probe

$750m AdMob deal re-scrutinized

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The US Federal Trade Commission has expanded its antitrust review into Google's proposed $750m acquisition of the mobile advertising outfit known as AdMob.

Google announced the news this afternoon with a blog post. "This week, we received what's called a 'second request,' which means that the FTC is asking for more information so that they can continue to review the deal," the post reads.

Naturally, the company downplayed the move. "As we said when we announced the deal, we don't see any regulatory issues with this deal, because the rapidly growing mobile advertising space is highly competitive with more than a dozen mobile ad networks," writes group manager Paul Feng. "That said, we know that closer scrutiny has been one consequence of Google's success."

Early last month, Google announced it had agreed to buy AdMob for $750m in stock - which would make it the company's third largest acquisition to date. AdMob runs an ad exchange that specializes in application banner ads for the iPhone and other mobile devices, an obvious complement to Google's search ad biz.

The move is analogous to Google's acquisition of DoubleClick, the Goliath of the desktop online banner ad market. IDC estimates that the AdMob deal will give Google a 30 to 40 per cent share of the fledgling mobile ad market. Others - including for-pay Google critic Scott Cleland - put the figure as high as 75 per cent.

The FTC also reviewed Google's $3.1bn DoubleClick deal, before approving it in December 2007. But as The New York Times points out, the commission is now under a new Presidential administration that takes a harder stance on antitrust. ®

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