Under Antitrust Scrutiny, Google Could Spinoff Its Adtech Biz

Battling new antitrust action by the U.S. Department of Justice, Google is offering to separate part of its adtech business into a discrete unit. The new Alphabet company would focus on app dissemination and programmatic auctions for advertising space and could potentially be worth billions of dollars. It is not known whether the move would satisfy the DOJ, which is reportedly prepping a fresh antitrust suit in the wake of a 2020 action. Google is also the target of antitrust investigations by state attorneys general and under EU and UK inquiries for anticompetitive measures.

Google has been lumped in among the Big Tech companies EU commissioner Thierry Breton calls “too big to care.” Based on its societal integration — not to mention parent Alphabet’s $1.529 trillion market cap (as of July 2022, per CompaniesMarketCap.com) — it qualifies as big, but its activity of late indicates a conciliatory approach.

Earlier this month, Google offered a revamped Google News in a bid to quash antitrust action in the EU. And now, “Google has offered concessions in an attempt to head off” this new DOJ investigation, which could file as soon as this summer, according to The Wall Street Journal.

At this point, it remains unknown what other factors are playing into the search engine giant’s latest moves, “with Google parent Alphabet poised to complete its 20-for-1 stock split after the market close on Friday,” July 15, Investor’s Business Daily reports. “The recent splits by Amazon.com and Shopify may give investors reason for caution.”

“In the case of Google stock, the stock split could pave the way for the tech giant to enter the Dow Jones Industrial Average, analysts say. But that may not happen until 2023,” Investor’s Business Daily adds.

Meanwhile, it is unknown whether adtech restructuring would curb scrutiny in the U.S. or Europe. “The reported concession comes at the same time when Google remains in Europe’s crosshairs,” notes Adweek. “There, the Digital Markets Act became law [last] week.” And even if Google opts to adjust its adtech business, “it remains to be seen whether spinning off parts of its ads business into a separate company under Alphabet would suffice to alleviate U.S.-side scrutiny,” said UM Worldwide chief privacy officer Arielle Garcia.

Last month, Alphabet “offered to let rival ad intermediaries place ads on YouTube to address a crucial part of an EU antitrust investigation that could pave the way for it to settle the case without a fine,” according to Reuters. In 2021, “Google generated $147 billion in revenue from online ads, more than any other company in the world, with ads including search, YouTube and Gmail accounting for the bulk of its overall sales and profit.”

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