The European Union may include purchase prices in the criteria used to trigger its antitrust probes, aiming to catch more data-heavy transactions in serious merger reviews in another warning shot to Silicon Valley.
The European Commission said Friday the EU's revenue-based rules mean some deals can currently avoid scrutiny when the target company doesn't have significant sales even if it "already plays a competitive role, holds commercially valuable data, or has a considerable market potential for other reasons."
EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager, who took office at the end of 2014, has signaled a willingness to delve more into how merging companies leverage the trove of data at their disposal. Data was one of the key considerations in the review of Facebook Inc.'s takeover of messaging service WhatsApp Inc. While the EU cleared it in October 2014, Vestager said last month officials were now "asking some follow-up questions" about privacy-policy changes.
Vestager signalled in June that Microsoft Corp.'s acquisition of professional social network LinkedIn Corp. is another deal where any EU probe would likely focus on its potential to leverage vast amounts of user data.
"Players in the digital economy may have considerable actual or potential market impact that may be reflected in high acquisition values, although they may not yet generate any or only little turnover," the EU said Friday as it sought feedback on possible changes. "It has been suggested to complement the existing turnover-based jurisdictional thresholds of the EU merger regulation by additional notification requirements based on alternative criteria, such as the transaction value."
The EU considers the possible legal gap may also affect the pharmaceutical industry.
"There have been indeed a number of highly valued acquisitions, by major pharmaceutical companies, of small biotechnology companies, which predominantly research and develop new treatments that may have high commercial potential, and do not yet generate any or only little turnover," the commission said.
© 2016 Bloomberg L.P.