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美国联邦贸易委员会要求科技巨头提供小额交易的数据

2020-2-12 14:50

 

据路透社报道,美国联邦贸易委员会(Federal Trade Commission)担心大型科技公司不公平地从事潜在的反竞争行为,已下令Alphabet Inc.旗下的谷歌子公司、亚马逊公司(Amazon.com Inc.)、苹果公司(Apple Inc.)、Facebook Inc.和微软公司(Microsoft Corp.)提供规模太小、无法向反垄断监管机构报告的并购信息。


司法部、联邦贸易委员会(FTC)、州检察长和众议院司法委员会(House Judiciary Committee)正在对大型科技平台展开调查。这些平台被指不公平地利用自己的影响力捍卫市场份额,或向邻近市场扩张。


大部分批评都集中在Facebook收购Instagram和亚马逊(Amazon)收购Whole Foods等大规模交易上,但这些公司也在规模较小的公司上投入了数十亿美元,这极大地改变了新兴科技行业的竞争格局。


FTC主席Joseph Simons表示,向大型科技公司发出的通知原本是为了进行研究,但可能会导致执法行动。


Simons说:“如果在研究中我们发现有交易存在问题……我们可以回去并采取强制措施来处理这些交易。”


他补充称,这些通知并非是对这些公司的警告,而是为了找出需要加强反垄断执法的领域。


FTC官员表示,该机构将研究“数百宗”由这些公司进行的收购,并计划“迅速”完成研究。


美国经济自由项目(American Economic Liberties Project)的研究主管马特·斯托勒(Matt Stoller)直言不讳地批评大型科技公司,他说:“这取决于他们怎么处理这些钱。”“我不会说这是好事,除非他们做了什么影响权力的事情。”


谷歌、亚马逊、苹果和Facebook没有立即回应置评请求。


微软一位发言人表示:“我们期待与联邦贸易委员会合作,回答他们的问题。”


该机构要求提供2010年1月1日至2019年12月31日期间的交易信息,并要求每家公司确认规模太小而无法向联邦贸易委员会和司法部报告的交易,后者负责评估并购交易是否符合反垄断法。


这两家科技巨头都受到了两党政治光谱的攻击,共和党人对他们所说的在社交媒体上压制保守派的声音感到愤怒,而民主党人则对不断增加的整合感到愤怒。


正在竞选总统的参议员伊丽莎白•沃伦(Elizabeth Warren)明确敦促联邦监管机构撤销“反竞争合并”,包括亚马逊(Amazon)收购Whole Foods和Zappos、Facebook收购WhatsApp和Instagram、谷歌收购Waze、Nest和DoubleClick。


Foundation Capital的普通合伙人保罗•霍兰德(Paul Holland)表示,大型科技公司频繁收购初创企业是一把双刃剑。


“他们为初创企业创造了一个真正的市场。他们为自己创造了一个目的地,”他说。


但霍兰德补充称,潜在收购方数量有限,也为这些交易创造了“寡头竞争环境”。


根据标准普尔全球市场情报(S&P Global Market Intelligence)的数据,Facebook在2010年至2019年期间收购了数十家公司,包括WhatsApp和Instagram等引人注目的收购,以及广告技术、面部识别和社交分析等规模较小的交易。


据提交给证券监管机构的文件显示,Alphabet在2019年斥资10亿美元进行了规模不详的小规模收购。许多是从事人工智能研究和云计算服务的公司,谷歌正试图在这些领域迅速创新,并寻求增加招聘。


除了30亿美元购买的耳机和流媒体公司胜在2014年,苹果公司主要做小型交易价值低于5亿美元在过去的十年中,抢购小公司从事增强现实显示等关键技术,相机传感器和人工智能软件。


在2019财年,微软以16亿美元的价格进行了19次小规模收购,大部分是现金收购。


微软试图巩固其在商业软件市场的地位,它进行了一系列重大收购,如面向商业专业人士的LinkedIn社交网络和代码库网站GitHub。


自从收购了LinkedIn之后,微软已经开始将其社交网络数据与Outlook电子邮件等微软产品整合在一起。

 

Concerned that big tech companies are unfairly engaging in potential anti-competitive behavior, the Federal Trade Commission has ordered Alphabet Inc.’s Google unit, Amazon.com Inc., Apple Inc., Facebook Inc. and Microsoft Corp. to provide information on mergers that were too small to report to antitrust regulators, Reuters reports.

The queries come as the Justice Department, the FTC, state attorneys general and the House Judiciary Committee are investigating the big tech platforms, which are accused of unfairly using their clout to defend market share or expand into adjacent markets.

Much of the criticism has focused on massive deals such as Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram and Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods, but the companies also have spent billions on smaller companies, dramatically changing the competitive landscape in emerging tech sectors.

FTC Chairman Joseph Simons said notices being issued to Big Tech companies were intended for research but could lead to enforcement action.

“If during the study we see that there are transactions that are problematic … we could go back and initiate enforcement action to deal with those transactions,” Simons said.

The notices were not meant to be a warning to the companies but were designed to identify areas that need more antitrust enforcement, he added.

The FTC will study “hundreds” of acquisitions made by the companies and aims to finish its study “quickly”, agency officials said.

“It depends what they do with it,” said Matt Stoller, research director at the American Economic Liberties Project and a vocal critic of big tech companies. “I’m not going to say this is good until they do something that impacts power.”

Google, Amazon.com, Apple and Facebook did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

“We look forward to working with the FTC to answer their questions,” a Microsoft spokesman said.

The agency asked for information about deals that were done between Jan. 1, 2010 and Dec. 31, 2019, and require each company to identify transactions that were too small to report to the FTC and Justice Department, which assess mergers for compliance with antitrust law.

The tech giants have come under fire from both sides of the political spectrum, with Republicans irked by what they say is a stifling of conservative voices on social media and Democrats angered by increasing consolidation.

Senator Elizabeth Warren, who is running for president, has explicitly urged federal regulators to undo “anti-competitive mergers”, including Amazon’s purchases of Whole Foods and Zappos, Facebook’s purchase of WhatsApp and Instagram, and Google’s acquisitions of Waze, Nest and DoubleClick.

Paul Holland, a general partner at Foundation Capital, said big tech players’ frequent purchases of startups have been a double-edged sword.

“They’ve created a true marketplace for startups. They’ve created a destination for them,” he said.

But Holland added that the limited number of potential acquirers has also created an “oligopolistic competitive environment” for those sales.

Facebook acquired dozens of companies between 2010 and 2019, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence data, including eye-catching purchases like WhatsApp and Instagram as well as smaller transactions in ad tech, facial recognition and social analytics.

Alphabet spent US$1 billion on an unspecified number of small acquisitions in 2019, according to securities filings. Many were companies working on artificial intelligence research and cloud computing services, areas in which Google is trying to innovate quickly and has sought to bolster hiring.

With the exception of its US$3 billion purchase of headphone and streaming company Beats in 2014, Apple has mostly made small deals valued at less than US$500 million over the past decade, snapping up small companies working on key technologies such as augmented reality displays, camera sensors and artificial intelligence software.

In fiscal 2019, Microsoft made 19 small acquisitions for US$1.6 billion, mostly in cash.

Microsoft has sought to consolidate its position in the business software market, with major acquisitions such as the LinkedIn social network for business professionals and the code repository site GitHub.

Since buying LinkedIn, which also fielded offers from Salesforce Inc., Microsoft has begun integrating its social network data with Microsoft products such as Outlook email.

 

来自: ejinsight