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UPDATE 2-Google to buy data analytics firm Looker for $2.6 bln

Paresh Dave

(Adds comments from Google Cloud, Looker CEOs)

June 6 (Reuters) - Alphabet Inc's Google said on Thursday it would buy Looker, a privately held big-data analytics company, for $2.6 billion in cash, in the first major acquisition for new Google Cloud Chief Executive Thomas Kurian.

Google's cloud computing division is a distant third globally to Inc and Microsoft Corp in terms of revenue from renting infrastructure and other computing tools to businesses.

But Google Cloud's BigQuery, a tool for managing large datasets, has been among bright spots in attracting customers, according to cloud industry analysts.

Kurian told Reuters in an interview that it made sense to double down on that area as he looked to fill in gaps in his unit. Looker and Google Cloud have similar cultures and share more than 350 customers across media, healthcare and finance, he said.

"When we looked at how do we broaden our portfolio, 1/8data and analytics 3/8 is a segment where we have strength," Kurian said. Looker is "complementary and completes our analytics foundation."

Santa Cruz, California-based Looker, which was founded in 2012, employs about 800 people, has raised $281 million in venture capital and was valued at $1.6 billion in a funding round last year.

It provides a visualization tool that helps customers spot trends and draw other lessons from their data. It competes with offerings such as Tableau and Microsoft's Power BI.

"This is a true built-for-cloud visualization tool, and it signals Google Cloud is serious about making acquisitions," said Ray Wang, a cloud industry analyst at Constellation Research.

Alphabet shares were down 0.5 percent in early trading.

Looker Chief Executive Frank Bien is expected to stay with Google and report to Kurian.

"Weve had great synergy with Google Cloud from the beginning, and the mission were on is a giant mission," Bien said.

Kurian said he did not expect the deal to face antitrust scrutiny. The companies said they expect the deal to close this year.

Alphabet's private equity fund CapitalG previously invested in Looker. (Reporting by Arjun Panchadar in Bengaluru Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty and Nick Zieminski)