U.S. antitrust regulators approved Google Inc.'s $3.1 billion purchase of DoubleClick Inc. Thursday, removing a key obstacle to a formidable combination in the burgeoning online advertising sector.
The transaction still faces substantial antitrust scrutiny from European regulators and cannot be completed without their approval. The European Commission has set a deadline of April 2 to finish its review.
The Federal Trade Commission appeared to accept many of Google's arguments that its online ad sales business doesn't compete with DoubleClick's ad-serving tools, saying its analysis ''showed that the companies are not direct competitors in any relevant antitrust market.''
''The FTC's strong support sends a clear message: this acquisition poses no risk to competition and will benefit consumers,'' Eric Schmidt, Google's chief executive, said. ''We hope that the European Commission will soon reach the same conclusion.''
The deal, announced in April, will combine Google's leading position in online text ads with DoubleClick's ad-serving tools that help publishers place and track display ads.