EU queries impact of Microsoft/Yahoo deal on Google

BRUSSELS, Jan 22 (Reuters) - EU regulators are seeking market views on whether a Microsoft Corp MSFT.O plan to use Yahoo Inc's search technology would help the U.S. software firm compete against dominant search engine Google Inc GOOG.O. Microsoft struck a 10-year Web search partnership with Yahoo YHOO.O last July, seeking to challenge Google. Combining forces could also attract more ad dollars from marketers, but the deal has yet to be approved by antitrust regulators.

Antitrust lawyers have said U.S. regulators are expected to scrutinise the deal closely but eventually grant approval as it would create a stronger rival to Google. [ID:nN29273592]

“Will the merger make Microsoft a better competitor to Google?” the European Commission said in a questionnaire sent to interested parties and obtained by Reuters.

The 38-question document asked potential respondents whether they believed Google had a competitive advantage compared to other search engines and what they considered to be the advantages and disadvantages of the various services.

They were also asked whether the Microsoft/Yahoo deal would encourage innovation and lead to better searching. The deadline for comments is Jan. 29.

The European Union executive has given itself until Feb. 19 to clear or prohibit the deal. It could extend the review should it have competition concerns. Outgoing Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes has to date blocked only two proposed mergers.

Microsoft last month ended a decade-long battle with the Commission by agreeing to give European consumers better access to rival Internet browsers in its Windows operating system.

Antitrust infringements in Europe have led to fines against Microsoft totalling 1.68 billion euros ($2.4 billion). (Reporting by Foo Yun Chee, editing by Dale Hudson)