The Chinese authorities have approved Google’s bid to buy phone maker Motorola Mobility, clearing the way for the $12.5 billion deal to close early next week. China was the last country that needed to give its approval before the deal could officially close. The US and Europe had already approved the merger in February.
The AP reports that the Chinese government approved the deal on Saturday, Google spokeswoman Niki Fenwick said. “We look forward to closing the deal,” she said. But Chinese regulators attached a big condition: That Google’s Android operating system for mobile devices remain available to all at no cost for the next five years.
The approval brings the Internet search giant closer to sealing its biggest acquisition ever. Buying Motorola allows Google to expand into manufacturing phones, tablet computers and other consumer devices for the first time. The deal also gives Google access to more than 17,000 Motorola patents.
In other Google news, UK tabloid newspaper The Daily Mail, has raised the issue of Google’s proximity with the UK government, “Tory ministers have held meetings with Google an average of once a month since the General Election,” the tabloid revealed.
The close relationship goes back to Mr Cameron’s first months as party leader. In 2006 and 2007, he spoke to the annual Google Zeitgeist conference.
There have been at least 23 meetings between Conservative ministers and Google since June 2010. with Prime Minister David Cameron meeting Google three times and Chancellor George Osborne met Google executives four times in past two years.
The links are so strong that in recent years at least three senior figures have moved between the Tories and Google.
Links with media giants are a highly sensitive topic for the Tories. The current section of the Leveson inquiry into Press standards is focusing on the painfully close ties between Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp and the Conservatives.
Revelations have included the toe-curling text messages between the Prime Minister and the company’s former chief executive, Rebekah Brooks. In addition, a series of emails have lifted the lid on the close relationship between News Corp’s top lobbyist and Mr Hunt’s department during the company’s abortive attempt to take over satellite broadcaster BSkyB in 2011.
Labour has also accused the Conservatives of going soft on online porn because of its close relationships with firms such as Google. Last month a Google executive caused outrage when she said it was the fault of parents if their children saw adult content online. The executive in question was Naomi Gummer, who until recently was Mr Hunt’s political adviser.
Google was approached by the Tories to store patients’ records after the failure of Labour’s health IT scheme.
A Google spokesperson said, “It’s absolutely right that governments speak with companies about issues that affect their citizens. The British Government makes the list of those meetings publicly available – including the Daily Mail’s 34 meetings over the same period.” In other words, the Daily Mail has met with the Government almost one and a half times a month (on average) since they entered office – that’s quite a bit more than Google has. It’s likely those were high-level meetings, not editorial ones.
The paper concludes, “Rachel Whetstone is not the only senior Tory official to have links to Google. Naomi Gummer, daughter of Mr Cameron’s Oxfordshire neighbour Lord Chadlington, worked with Miss Whetstone in Google’s public policy division and is still an executive there. She was previously an adviser to Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt. Amy Fisher, Caroline Spelman’s special adviser since last year, did a stint at Google as a press officer with Miss Whetstone.”