Tech Check

Google to Rule as EU OKs DoubleClick Buy

Google Headquarters

For Google, the European Union's ongoing scrutiny of its plans to buy DoubleClick has been an overhang on the stock since the deal was first announced. Today came the long-awaited EU blessing Google has been waiting for.

The deal is clearly critical for Google , with regulators declaring that that the $3.1 billion deal won't harm competition, that other players in the market including Yahoo and Microsoft , will offer up enough choice. That's an interesting determination, considering the loud complaints voiced by both those companies when Google's play for DoubleClick became public.

Oh, the irony, now that those loud complaints have given way to a hostile bid by Microsoft for Yahoo in the wake of the Google/DoubleClick deal.

But I digress. The key takeaway today is Google's new role as a major player in display advertising. A couple of quarters ago, as Yahoo was suffering, its only saving grace at the time was the strong performance it was seeing in display advertising. A market Google wasn't even playing in, even as the company continued to eat Yahoo's lunch.

Sure, there are concerns of economic slowdown and what toll these macro issues will take on a company like Google. But as analysts continue to clamor for Google to come up with new revenue streams, the DoubleClick deal offers some enormous opportunities.

In a statement this morning, Google CEO Eric Schmidt proclaims that "Google now has the leading display-ad platform."

To say the least.

We've already heard from Microsoft why it's willing to spend a 62 percent premium to snap up Yahoo: It comes from the massive growth the company anticipates in online advertising. So what Google was able to do with just a few billion dollars will take Microsoft better than $45 billion to do, with no guarantees that a combined Microsoft and Yahoo will be able to fend off the Google juggernaut.

Microsoft suffered the Google premium once before in the wake of the DoubleClick announcement: Microsoft had to shell out $6 billion for aQuantive in the wake of Google's news; it could have paid a fraction of that, had it acted before Google instead of following its lead.

But alas, those are premiums under the bridge, and now these competitors have to look forward. While Microsoft is merely embarking down this acquisition road with Yahoo -- and both companies will have to absorb the big distractions that come along the way -- Google is sitting pretty, integrating DoubleClick after the EU's and the FTC's blessing.

ComScore (yes, I know what you're thinking, but THIS data hasn't been disputed) says Google owns the internet search market, controlling about 59 percent of it. Microsoft has a paltry 10 percent; Yahoo just over 22 percent.

Even together -- if it happens -- Microsoft/Yahoo would be a distant number 2, as Google swallows DoubleClick, sits in the catbird seat, and purrs its way to a lucrative future. As Google closed at a new 52-week low yesterday, maybe this becomes the catalyst investors have been waiting for.

Questions?  Comments?