FTC launch of the probe in the acquisitions made by Apple and other major tech companies

The Federal Trade Commission has announced its intention to review the latest acquisitions by large technology companies, including Apple. The FTC has issued orders for Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet, Amazon, Google and Facebook to provide additional information on the acquisitions they have made in the past.

The FTC is seeking information that has not been reported to the antitrust authorities under the Hart-Scott-Rodino (HSR) of the Act. The survey covers all transactions that each company has completed between 1 January 2010 and 31 December 2019. This window includes Apple’s $3 billion acquisition of Beats, which was completed in 2014, as well as the Facebook acquisition of Instagram.

The purpose of the survey is to help the FTC to “deepen their understanding” of the acquisition strategy of companies like Apple. The FTC will put a particular emphasis on the search for potential anti-competitive acquisitions by companies:

Apple notoriously makes a few acquisitions each year, particularly smaller businesses. Apple rarely discloses the details regarding these acquisitions, instead of issuing any press release that it “buys smaller technology companies from time to time and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.”

This investigation from the FTC, however, apparently force Apple to provide more details on all acquisitions made from 2010 to 2019. In May 2019, the CEO of Apple Tim Cook said that Apple had acquired between 20 and 25 companies over the last six months.

“The digital technology, companies are a large part of the economy and in our daily lives,” said the Chairman of the FTC Joe Simons. “This initiative will allow the Commission to look more closely at acquisitions in this important sector, and also assess whether agencies will receive sufficient notice of transactions that may harm competition. This will help us to continue to keep tech open and competitive markets, for the benefit of consumers.”

The FTC is seeking information that has not been reported to the antitrust authorities under the Hart-Scott-Rodino (HSR) of the Act. The survey covers all transactions that each company has completed between 1 January 2010 and 31 December 2019. This window includes Apple’s $3 billion acquisition of Beats, which was completed in 2014, as well as the Facebook acquisition of Instagram.

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“The digital technology, companies are a large part of the economy and in our daily lives,” said the Chairman of the FTC Joe Simons. “This initiative will allow the Commission to look more closely at acquisitions in this important sector, and also assess whether agencies will receive sufficient notice of transactions that may harm competition. This will help us to continue to keep tech open and competitive markets, for the benefit of consumers.”

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