WASHINGTON The Federal Trade Commission on Thursday approved Google's (GOOG.O) $3.1 billion purchase of advertising rival DoubleClick, saying the deal would not substantially lessen competition.
The deal, which combines Google's dominance in pay-per-click Internet advertising with DoubleClick's market-leading position in flashier display ads, is also being scrutinized by European antitrust officials.
In a 4-1 vote, the FTC decided to end its eight-month investigation of the transaction. Critics of the combination, first announced in April, had said it could give Google too much control over online advertising.
The commission's majority wrote in a statement: "After carefully reviewing the evidence, we have concluded that Google's proposed acquisition of DoubleClick is unlikely to substantially lessen competition."
The merger is part of a rapid consolidation within the Internet advertising industry.
In recent months, Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) bought aQuantive for $6 billion, Yahoo Inc YHOO.O bought BlueLithium for $300 million and Time Warner Inc's (TWX.N) AOL unit bought Tacoda.
But the DoubleClick deal was also controversial for its privacy aspects, although the U.S. competition agency said that issue was not relevant to an antitrust review.
The deal must still be approved by the European Commission, which opened a four-month review in mid-November. It has already been approved by Australia and Brazil.
Google has a dominant position in pay-per-click ads, which are based on a computer user's searches. Its ads are usually in the form of text and are shown on the right-hand side of the screen.
DoubleClick is a market leader in the display ads preferred by many corporate advertisers.
(Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)