January 15, 2021 10:34:27 am
Alphabet Inc’s Google closed its $2.1 billion takeover of Fitbit Inc even though the US Justice Department said it is still conducting an antitrust investigation of the deal.
In a blog post Thursday, Google said it completed the acquisition and highlighted the company’s binding commitments to protect user privacy. Shortly after the blog was published, the Justice Department’s antitrust division released a statement saying it hasn’t signed off on the deal.
“The Antitrust Division’s investigation of Google’s acquisition of Fitbit remains ongoing,” Alex Okuliar, a deputy assistant attorney general, said. “Although the division has not reached a final decision about whether to pursue an enforcement action, the division continues to investigate whether Google’s acquisition of Fitbit may harm competition and consumers in the United States.”
The Justice Department investigation raises the possibility that the government could sue to unwind the deal later if it determines that the merger violates antitrust laws.
The department and a group of state attorneys general sued Google last year, accusing the company of abusing its dominance in online search in violation of antitrust laws.
Google said in a statement that it closed the deal because the investigation period had ended and the Justice Department hadn’t taken action to stop it. In the US, companies are free to complete deals after they comply with the government’s request for information, a period that can last for a year or longer. If enforcers want to stop a merger, they have to sue and win a court order blocking it. They can also seek to unwind consummated deals.
“We complied with the DOJ’s extensive review for the past 14 months, and the agreed upon waiting period expired without their objection,” Google said. “We continue to be in touch with them and we’re committed to answering any additional questions.”
Google announced its plans to buy Fitbit in November 2019, noting that it would use the smartwatch maker to improve its lagging hardware business. The deal has faced criticism from consumer groups and regulatory scrutiny in jurisdictions around the world.
The European Union approved the takeover in December after Google pledged to maintain access for rival health and fitness apps and devices to Google and Fitbit data.