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Google against potential EU break-up order, says not proportionate

FILE PHOTO: An illuminated Google logo is seen inside an office building in Zurich

By Foo Yun Chee

BRUSSELS (Reuters) -Alphabet's Google on Friday criticised a potential order from EU antitrust regulators to sell part of its lucrative adtech business, saying it was disproportionate and not right for its advertising partners.

The comments from Google's director Oliver Bethell and its vice president for global ads Dan Taylor came after the U.S. tech giant responded to EU charges issued to the company in June.

"We are opposed to divestment. We don't think that's the right outcome for this case. We think this is a tremendously efficient part of our business," Bethell told reporters.

"And that kind of remedy would be disproportionate in the circumstances and we have explained that to the Commission in our response to their statement of objections," he said.

The European Commission said Google has since 2014 abused its dominance in the online advertising technology industry via its market power on both sides of the supply chain.

It has done that, the Commission says, by ensuring that both its intermediation tools on the buy-side and on the sell-side would favour its own ad exchange AdX in the matching auctions.

Taylor said it was common practice in the industry to serve both advertisers and publishers, with a number of rivals doing the same.

"There are many firms that have competing adtech businesses with us, Amazon, Microsoft, Criteo, Comcast and others," he told reporters.

"They offer ad platforms and tools like ours that cater to both advertisers and publishers. Now it is common to do this in the industry because it benefits both advertisers and publishers," Taylor said.

"Integrated technology stacks will make it easier to provide high quality connections that match the right advertiser to the right ad slot on a publisher page."

The stakes are higher for Google in this latest clash with regulators as it concerns a portion of the company's advertising business which accounted for 79% of total revenue last year and making it its biggest money maker.

Its 2022 advertising revenue, including from search services, Gmail, Google Play, Google Maps, YouTube adverts, Google Ad Manager, AdMob and AdSense, amounted to $224.5 billion.

Google can ask for a closed hearing to plead its case before senior EU and national antitrust officials before a ruling is issued, which could come next year.

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee, Editing by Louise Heavens, Kirsten Donovan)

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