NEW YORK Google has received clearance from the Federal Trade Commission to complete its acquisition of DoubleClick.
The approval removes a major hurdle to the $3.1 billion purchase, which promises to increase Google's share of the online ad market via its acquisition of the leading ad-serving technology company.
The FTC voted 4-1 to approve the merger, rejecting arguments from Google competitor Microsoft that the combination would constitute a choke hold on Internet advertising. Google dismissed these claims by noting that DoubleClick does not buy or sell Web advertising, rather it provides the technology for ad delivery and measurement.
The FTC agreed, noting that Google and DoubleClick "are not direct competitors."
Google still faces obstacles to closing the DoubleClick deal, most notably in Europe, where the European Commission is examining the deal.
"We hope the European Commission will soon reach the same conclusion, and we are confident that this deal will deliver more relevant ads for consumers, more choices for advertisers and more opportunities for Web site publishers," Google CEO Eric Schmidt said in a statement.
Subsequent to Google's agreement in April to buy DoubleClick, Microsoft bought aQuantive, the parent company of DoubleClick's largest competitor, Atlas. Several other acquisitions were sparked by the Google-DoubleClick agreement, including Yahoo!'s purchase of Right Media and WPP Group buying 24/7 Real Media.
Privacy groups also raised concerns that the merger would result in Google holding too much information on users' Internet habits. Google has promised to keep its search behavior data separate from DoubleClick's Web-browsing information. The FTC's review did not address privacy.