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沒人能阻止谷歌收購Fitbit,為什么?

沒人能阻止谷歌收購Fitbit,為什么?

Aaron Pressman 2020年07月06日
根據歐美現行法律,幾乎不可能阻止兩家不屬于同一行業的公司合并。

反壟斷專家表示,盡管公眾對大型科技公司的影響力越來越感到擔憂,但可能仍然無法阻止谷歌出資20億美元收購Fitbit的計劃,雖然歐洲監管機構加大了審查,并且最近有20家消費者和網絡團體對這筆交易提出了投訴。

去年11月,谷歌宣布有意收購境況不佳的運動手環和智能手表制造商Fitbit。Fitbit曾經在所謂的智能可穿戴設備市場叱咤風云,但來自高端市場的蘋果和小米等中國競爭對手在低端市場的沖擊,重創了它的業務。20億美元的收購價格只是Fitbit于2015年上市時股票市值的一小部分。與此同時,谷歌自己的可穿戴設備平臺卻沒有什么市場吸引力,所以這次合并能夠讓兩家公司同時獲益。

但歐盟的監管機構對這筆交易有很多問題,尤其是谷歌在得到了Fitbit數千萬用戶的健康和健身數據后,是否會進一步加強谷歌在數字營銷和搜索領域的統治地位,更不用說合并后可能會擠掉安卓平臺上很多其他健康類應用。據英國《金融時報》上周三的報道,歐盟向谷歌和Fitbit的競爭對手發送了一份長達60頁的調查問卷來征求意見。

同樣在上周三,包括公共市民(Public Citizen)和開放市場研究所(Open Markets Institute)在內的20家團體共同要求監管機構阻止該交易,稱若合并成功,可能導致用戶數據濫用。

但Fitbit拒絕置評。

而谷歌指出,沒有理由阻止這筆交易。“交易的重點是設備,而不是數據。”該公司在一份聲明中表示。“可穿戴設備市場十分擁擠,我們相信,谷歌和Fitbit在硬件方面的努力將加大本領域的競爭,讓消費者受益,讓下一代設備更加物美價廉。”

谷歌目前正在接受美國監管機構的反壟斷調查,調查內容是在線搜索和廣告市場。

反壟斷律師戴維?巴爾托說,對于那些希望阻止這筆交易的人而言,問題在于無論是谷歌還是Fitbit,在可穿戴設備市場中的份額都不足以威脅其他競爭對手,而美國法律沒有規定禁止不同行業公司之間的并購。巴爾托曾經在針對微軟的反壟斷訴訟期間任美國聯邦貿易委員會的政策主任。

“提起訴訟將異常困難。”巴爾托說。

IDC的數據顯示,2019年,Fitbit在可穿戴設備市場的份額不到5%。蘋果以32%的出貨量領跑,小米以12%的出貨量居第二位,三星列第三名,出貨量占9%,第四是華為,出貨量8%。這些公司都沒有使用谷歌的可穿戴軟件平臺Wear OS。

歐盟也不太可能阻止兩家美國公司的合并,不過它可以對合并后的公司對客戶數據的使用施加限制。

也有學者認為,大型科技公司通過小規模的附加收購,可以不成比例地擴大其市場影響力,但法律上沒有以此為理由阻止類似合并的先例。

“沒錯,Fitbit不是谷歌的競爭對手。如果是的話,阻止這場并購會很容易。”斯坦福大學的法學教授馬克?萊姆利說,他還寫過一篇關于此類并購危害的論文。“但他們也不是毫不相干的。谷歌正在建立一個業務組合,組合里的業務領域相互關聯,收集各自用戶的數據。隨著這個組合不斷擴大,同行業的競爭對手越來越難以和他們站在一個公平的賽場上競爭。”

但根據現行法律,幾乎不可能阻止兩家不屬于同一行業的公司合并(即所謂的垂直并購),無論是以用戶數據為由還是其他理由。巴爾托提到了最近的一個案例,法院駁回了政府反對美國電話電報公司(AT&T)收購時代華納的意見。

“還沒有過成功阻止這類垂直并購的先例。”他說,“而且和時代華納的市場資產份額相比,Fitbit只是小巫見大巫。”

公共知識組織(Public Knowledge)的競爭政策主管、前聯邦貿易委員會律師夏洛蒂?斯勒曼說,這20家反對團體聯名信的觀點是,這筆交易應該受到嚴格審查,甚至在現行法律下加以阻止,因為此并購會對未來或潛在的市場競爭造成威脅。她表示:“潛在競爭這個角度尚未得到足夠重視,但這是我們法律的一部分。”

不過,她補充說,美國的法律應該得到加強,應該充分考慮數字平臺的影響力,以及大型科技公司利用并購來減少競爭威脅的種種方式。斯勒曼說:“我們真的需要制定針對數字平臺的新規則和新法律,因為即使我們的反壟斷措施非常有效,也無法全面解決數字平臺的問題。”(財富中文網)

譯者:Feb

反壟斷專家表示,盡管公眾對大型科技公司的影響力越來越感到擔憂,但可能仍然無法阻止谷歌出資20億美元收購Fitbit的計劃,雖然歐洲監管機構加大了審查,并且最近有20家消費者和網絡團體對這筆交易提出了投訴。

去年11月,谷歌宣布有意收購境況不佳的運動手環和智能手表制造商Fitbit。Fitbit曾經在所謂的智能可穿戴設備市場叱咤風云,但來自高端市場的蘋果和小米等中國競爭對手在低端市場的沖擊,重創了它的業務。20億美元的收購價格只是Fitbit于2015年上市時股票市值的一小部分。與此同時,谷歌自己的可穿戴設備平臺卻沒有什么市場吸引力,所以這次合并能夠讓兩家公司同時獲益。

但歐盟的監管機構對這筆交易有很多問題,尤其是谷歌在得到了Fitbit數千萬用戶的健康和健身數據后,是否會進一步加強谷歌在數字營銷和搜索領域的統治地位,更不用說合并后可能會擠掉安卓平臺上很多其他健康類應用。據英國《金融時報》上周三的報道,歐盟向谷歌和Fitbit的競爭對手發送了一份長達60頁的調查問卷來征求意見。

同樣在上周三,包括公共市民(Public Citizen)和開放市場研究所(Open Markets Institute)在內的20家團體共同要求監管機構阻止該交易,稱若合并成功,可能導致用戶數據濫用。

但Fitbit拒絕置評。

而谷歌指出,沒有理由阻止這筆交易。“交易的重點是設備,而不是數據。”該公司在一份聲明中表示。“可穿戴設備市場十分擁擠,我們相信,谷歌和Fitbit在硬件方面的努力將加大本領域的競爭,讓消費者受益,讓下一代設備更加物美價廉。”

谷歌目前正在接受美國監管機構的反壟斷調查,調查內容是在線搜索和廣告市場。

反壟斷律師戴維?巴爾托說,對于那些希望阻止這筆交易的人而言,問題在于無論是谷歌還是Fitbit,在可穿戴設備市場中的份額都不足以威脅其他競爭對手,而美國法律沒有規定禁止不同行業公司之間的并購。巴爾托曾經在針對微軟的反壟斷訴訟期間任美國聯邦貿易委員會的政策主任。

“提起訴訟將異常困難。”巴爾托說。

IDC的數據顯示,2019年,Fitbit在可穿戴設備市場的份額不到5%。蘋果以32%的出貨量領跑,小米以12%的出貨量居第二位,三星列第三名,出貨量占9%,第四是華為,出貨量8%。這些公司都沒有使用谷歌的可穿戴軟件平臺Wear OS。

歐盟也不太可能阻止兩家美國公司的合并,不過它可以對合并后的公司對客戶數據的使用施加限制。

也有學者認為,大型科技公司通過小規模的附加收購,可以不成比例地擴大其市場影響力,但法律上沒有以此為理由阻止類似合并的先例。

“沒錯,Fitbit不是谷歌的競爭對手。如果是的話,阻止這場并購會很容易。”斯坦福大學的法學教授馬克?萊姆利說,他還寫過一篇關于此類并購危害的論文。“但他們也不是毫不相干的。谷歌正在建立一個業務組合,組合里的業務領域相互關聯,收集各自用戶的數據。隨著這個組合不斷擴大,同行業的競爭對手越來越難以和他們站在一個公平的賽場上競爭。”

但根據現行法律,幾乎不可能阻止兩家不屬于同一行業的公司合并(即所謂的垂直并購),無論是以用戶數據為由還是其他理由。巴爾托提到了最近的一個案例,法院駁回了政府反對美國電話電報公司(AT&T)收購時代華納的意見。

“還沒有過成功阻止這類垂直并購的先例。”他說,“而且和時代華納的市場資產份額相比,Fitbit只是小巫見大巫。”

公共知識組織(Public Knowledge)的競爭政策主管、前聯邦貿易委員會律師夏洛蒂?斯勒曼說,這20家反對團體聯名信的觀點是,這筆交易應該受到嚴格審查,甚至在現行法律下加以阻止,因為此并購會對未來或潛在的市場競爭造成威脅。她表示:“潛在競爭這個角度尚未得到足夠重視,但這是我們法律的一部分。”

不過,她補充說,美國的法律應該得到加強,應該充分考慮數字平臺的影響力,以及大型科技公司利用并購來減少競爭威脅的種種方式。斯勒曼說:“我們真的需要制定針對數字平臺的新規則和新法律,因為即使我們的反壟斷措施非常有效,也無法全面解決數字平臺的問題。”(財富中文網)

譯者:Feb

Growing concerns about the power of big tech companies probably won’t be enough to derail Google’s planned $2 billion acquisition of Fitbit, antitrust experts say. That’s despite increasing scrutiny from European regulators and a recent complaint about the deal from 20 consumer and online groups.

Google announced last November its intention to grab the struggling maker of eponymous activity-tracking bands and smartwatches. Fitbit once dominated the market for so-called smart wearables, but an onslaught from Apple at the high end and Chinese rivals like Xiaomi at the low end decimated its business. The $2 billion acquisition price was a fraction of Fitbit’s stock market value when it went public in 2015. At the same time, Google’s own wearable platform has failed to gain much traction in the market, and the merger could give a boost to both companies’ efforts.

But regulators in the European Union have many questions about the deal, focusing particularly on whether Google gaining access to the health and fitness data of tens of millions of Fitbit users could somehow strengthen the company’s dominance of digital advertising and search—not to mention sideline other health apps on Google’s Android platform. The EU has sent a 60-page questionnaire to Google and Fitbit rivals seeking their views, the Financial Times reported on last Wednesday.

Also on last Wednesday, 20 groups including Public Citizen and the Open Markets Institute asked regulators to block the deal, warning that the merger could lead to the misuse of customer data.

Fitbit declined to comment.

Google said there was no reason for the deal to be blocked. "This deal is about devices, not data," the company said in a statement. "The wearables space is highly crowded, and we believe the combination of Google's and Fitbit's hardware efforts will increase competition in the sector, benefiting consumers and making the next generation of devices better and more affordable."

Google is already under scrutiny by U.S. regulators in a broader antitrust probe of the search and advertising markets.

The problem for those hoping to see the deal blocked is that neither company has a large enough share of the wearables market to cause problems for other competitors, and U.S. law offers little rationale to stop a merger of companies not in the same business, says David Balto, an antitrust attorney and the former policy director of the Federal Trade Commission during the Microsoft antitrust case.

“It would be extraordinarily difficult to bring a case,” Balto says.

Fitbit had less than 5% of the wearables market in 2019, according to data from IDC. Apple led the market with 32% of device shipments, Xiaomi was second with 12%, Samsung was third at 9%, and Huawei ranked fourth with 8%. None of those companies use Google’s wearable-software platform, currently called Wear OS.

The European Union is also unlikely to try to block the merger of two U.S-based companies, although it could look to impose limits on the combined company around the use of customer data.

Some academics have suggested that big tech companies have used small add-on acquisitions to expand their market power inappropriately, but there’s no legal precedent for using the argument to block a merger.

“Fitbit isn't a Google competitor, exactly. If it were, blocking the merger would be easy,” says Mark Lemley, a law professor at Stanford and the author of a paper on the harm of such mergers. “But neither is it unrelated. Google is building a portfolio of related businesses that collect data on their users, and as that portfolio gets bigger it gets harder to compete with them on a level playing field in any one of those businesses.”

But it’s almost impossible under current law to stop the combination of two companies not in the same line of business, known as vertical mergers, on customer data grounds or any others. Balto points to the recent case in which a court overrode government objections to AT&T’s purchase of Time Warner.

“There are no successful oppositions to vertical mergers like this,” he says. “Fitbit is a Lilliputian compared to the size of assets Time Warner possessed in their relevant markets in that case.”

The point of the letter from the 20 opposition groups was that the merger should be scrutinized and even blocked under current law as a danger to potential or future competition, says Charlotte Slaiman, competition policy director at Public Knowledge and a former FTC attorney herself. “Potential competition is an angle that hasn’t been taken seriously enough, but it is a part of our law,” she says.

Still, U.S. law should be strengthened to take into account the power of digital platforms and the ways big tech companies have used mergers to reduce competitive threats, she adds. “We really need new rules and laws that are focused on digital platforms, because even if we have very effective antitrust enforcement it’s not going to be enough to address the full problem here,” Slaiman says.

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