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Sources: FTC extends Google-DoubleClick review

Antitrust regulators with the Federal Trade Commission have received an extension to review the controversial $3.1 billion Google-DoubleClick megamerger, according to sources.

The FTC faced a Thursday deadline to either challenge the deal or allow it to go through. But the commission is now expected to stay quiet for at least several more days as it continues to study the impact of the proposed merger on competition and consumers. A decision Thursday is unlikely.

Google complied with the FTC’s second request for information on the merger on November 14. Once a company complies with a “second request,” federal antitrust regulators have 30 days to issue a decision on a pending merger, unless the prospective buyer is willing to waive that deadline.

A Google spokesman declined to comment, other than to note the process is ongoing. And a representative from the FTC also declined to comment.

Antitrust attorneys have previously noted that they expected the FTC to ultimately sign off on the deal, given it’s been roughly three decades since the FTC has challenged a merger involving companies in adjacent industries, otherwise known as a vertical, or non-horizontal merger.

In part, that is because the commission views such mergers as creating “efficiencies” that could ultimately benefit consumers, versus a merger of two companies in identical lines of business that may largely result in removing a competitor from the market.

Google and DoubleClick both run an ad service business. Google operates AdSense to dish up ads to Web sites in its publisher network, whereas DoubleClick offers an ad serving and ad management tool called Dart, geared toward publishers, advertisers, and corporate customers.

But the companies differ in that Google’s pay-per-click text ads are generated from keyword searches, while DoubleClick puts banner ads on sites. DoubleClick also recently introduced an advertising exchange, which serves as a marketplace to match sellers of ad inventory, such as Web site operators, with advertisers. DoubleClick runs a search engine marketing business called Performix.

While the timing of a decision remains a bit unclear, a number of competitors have voiced their opposition to the merger.

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