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After Google's Fitbit deal, EU says worrying when firms targeted for their data

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FILE PHOTO: The logo for wearable device maker Fitbit Inc. is displayed on a screen at NYSE floor in New York
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By Foo Yun Chee and Victoria Waldersee

LISBON (Reuters) - The acquisition of companies for their data is concerning in general for regulators, Europe's antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager said on Thursday, a week after Google bought fitness trackers company Fitbit <FIT.N>.

Alphabet Inc-owned Google paid $2.1 billion (£1.6 billion) for Fitbit to help it take on Apple <AAPL.O> and Samsung Electronics <005930.KS> in the crowded market for fitness trackers and smart watches.

Vestager declined to comment on the deal specifically but said there was general unease among regulators when data-heavy companies are the targets of bids.

Google's deal has triggered calls from competitors to competition enforcers to take a tough line. Fitbit, which helped pioneer the wearable devices craze, has an invaluable trove of health data.

"In general we have a concern if companies merge because of data," Vestager told a news briefing at Web Summit.

She added that regulators then considered the questions of, does this create a barrier to entry, will this make it more difficult to innovate and does a risk to privacy issues arise from that kind of data coming together.

Google's Fitbit deal requires EU regulatory approval.

Vestager has in the last two years handed down more than 8 billion euros in fines to Google for stifling competitors in three separate cases involving its price comparison shopping product, its Android smartphone operating system and in search advertising brokering.

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)