Facebook Seeks EU Antitrust Review of WhatsApp Deal

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Facebook has asked European Union antitrust regulators to examine its $19 billion deal to buy messaging service WhatsApp, in an attempt to avoid other antitrust reviews by individual countries, people familiar with the matter said.

The move was unexpected because the deal already had been approved in the US and wasn't expected to face scrutiny by the European Commission, the EU's central antitrust authority. However, in light of potential reviews from different countries, Facebook is seeking one hearing that will cover the entire 28-nation bloc.

"Facebook might prefer to go to the commission than go before several national regulators, which would each ask it for information," said Thomas Graf, an antitrust lawyer with Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton in Brussels. The commission also might be expected to take a more neutral approach than national authorities, which would face vigorous lobbying from local interest groups such as national telecom companies, experts said.

The deal has raised concerns among Europe's telecom companies, which have warned that WhatsApp -- a service that acts as a replacement for text and picture messaging -- would give Facebook a dominant position in the market for instant messaging in Europe.

Facebook Seeks EU Antitrust Review of WhatsApp Deal