October 16, 2014

Facebook finalizes purchase of WhatsApp for $19 billion

The European Commission (EC) has approved the acquisition of mobile instant messaging service WhatsApp by Facebook for $19 billion, and the social media giant has finalized the deal with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The purchase was originally announced in February by WhatsApp co-founders Brian Acton, formerly of Yahoo!, and Ukrainian national Jan Koum, who will join Facebook's board. Since then, it has come under intense scrutiny from both the EC and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

The FTC eventually approved it with the condition that Facebook not alter WhatsApp's existing privacy policy of not collecting email addresses, locations or user names or sharing phone numbers. The EC's concerns were centered on competition issues, but the European government eventually concluded that the market is big enough to handle the merger.

"While Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp are two of the most popular apps, most people use more than one communications app," said Competition Commissioner Joaquín Almunia in a statement. "We have carefully reviewed this proposed acquisition and come to the conclusion that it would not hamper competition in this dynamic and growing market. Consumers will continue to have a wide choice of consumer communications apps."

In August, WhatsApp reached 600 million active users, making it by far the most popular IM platform in the world, especially in Europe. The company will be integrated gradually into Facebook, which is reportedly exploring options to monetize its investment. Among those options could be a money-transfer and payments service — Facebook recently hired former PayPal president David A. Marcus as its vice president of messaging products.

In the always active world of technology mergers and acquisitions, M&A advisors can help companies explore their options and make the best deal available.