By Natalia Drozdiak
BRUSSELS -- In a bid to win European Union antitrust approval of its $26 billion acquisition of LinkedIn Corp., Microsoft has proposed concessions that would allow rival professional social networks access to its Outlook programs, according to people familiar with the matter.
Microsoft has offered to allow other professional social networks access to its Outlook add-in program and Outlook APIs (or application programming interface, which allow various programs to communicatewith one another) following its merger with LinkedIn, the people said. Some of the rival networks already have access to those Outlook programs, they added.
The safeguards would, for example, allow the display of profiles from other sites besides LinkedIn, such as German business professionals' network XING, into an Outlook calendar entry of a meeting between two or more people.
In addition, Microsoft has pledged to allow manufacturers such as Dell Inc. and Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co. to disable the LinkedIn shortcut on desktop devices, the people said. An EU antitrust decision in 2004 condemned Microsoft for bundling products into its Windows software.
None of the remedies, however, would offer rivals direct access to LinkedIn's pool of data -- a condition Salesforce.com Inc., which lost to Microsoft in its bid for LinkedIn, has publicly pressed for. However, no outside entity currently has unlimited access to LinkedIn's data trove, people familiar with the matter have said.
The European Commission, the bloc's antitrust regulator, has sought comment from rivals after Microsoft submitted the remedies last week.
The EU's current deadline to complete the review is set for Dec. 6 but that could be extended if the regulator still has concerns about the deal and decides to open an in-depth investigation.
The EU's antitrust authority, which has said it would scrutinize mergers involving large amounts of data more closely, sent out questionnaires to rivals in October posing questions about the rough value of LinkedIn's data and whether rival sites can replicate it.
Microsoft has argued that much of the user data on LinkedIn is also found on other social-networking sites, including Facebook Inc., which should therefore also be considered as part of the same market in the EU's review process.
Write to Natalia Drozdiak at firstname.lastname@example.org
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
November 22, 2016 10:06 ET (15:06 GMT)
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