Microsoft clears final hurdle to LinkedIn deal

The last remaining obstacle to Microsoft’s acquisition of LinkedIn fell today, when the European Commission approved the sweeping $26 billion deal. The transaction is now set to close before month’s end.

The EC’s consent was contingent on Microsoft agreeing to provide rival social networking sites access to its Office programs for the next five years. The acquisition had already been approved by regulators in the U.S., China and Brazil.

“We’ve now obtained all the regulatory approvals needed to complete the acquisition and the deal will close in the coming days,” Microsoft’s Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith said in a blog post following word of the EC’s decision.

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Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, has described the acquisition as the key to the software giant’s future efforts in the business applications market. At their heart lies an ambitious undertaking to give business professionals a vast new set of tools and data with which to collaborate and solve common business problems.

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To win EC approval, Microsoft agreed to continue to allow rival social networks to access the Office suite’s application programming interfaces. These APIs allow different applications to communicate with one another and will give LinkedIn’s competitors the same level of access to the Microsoft Office suite that they have today.

In addition, Microsoft will give rival social networks access to its Office Graph, the search and machine learning technology that will underpin most of the combined company’s new initiatives. Such access would, for example, allow professional profiles from competitors’ sites to be displayed in a Microsoft Outlook calendar entry.

Microsoft also agreed that it would not require computer makers to install LinkedIn on Windows PCs. The company’s concessions only apply to markets that are part of European Union. While the software maker may follow suit in other regions, under the agreement it is not bound to do so.

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