Microsoft is one step closer to finalizing its US$8.5 billion acquisition of Internet phone service company Skype.
The European Union's competition commissioner, Joaquin Almunia, is set to approve the proposed deal, despite complaints from would-be rivals over Microsoft "bundling" the Web phone service with Windows software, the Financial Times (FT) reported Thursday.
Brussels' decision to give the green light without an in-depth, second-phase investigation will come as a relief for Microsoft, and signals a turnaround in its hitherto strained relationship and image with EU competition authorities, FT said. Almunia's spokesman declined comment on the decision, it added.
When Redmond announced the deal back in May, it said Skype would become a new business division within Microsoft, with Skype CEO Tony Bates as that division's president, reporting directly to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. The plan was to integrate Skype with a broad range of its products including Xbox and Xbox Live, Kinect, Windows Phone, Lync and Outlook.
According to the report, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) approved the deal in June, as it was satisfied that there was sufficient competition from rival online services including Google Talk. It added that other competition reviews are still under way in Russia, Ukraine, Serbia and Taiwan.