Facebook given green light to buy WhatsApp

WhatsApp Image copyright Getty Images

EU regulators have given the go-ahead for the social networking site Facebook to buy the mobile messenger service WhatsApp.

The decision clears the way for a fiercely opposed $19bn (£11.9bn) deal.

The deal has been disputed by telecom companies, worried about the growing power of US technology companies.

In a statement explaining its decision the European Commission said that Facebook and WhatsApp were "not close competitors".

The deal is the largest in Facebook's 10-year history and will give the most popular social networking site a foothold in mobile messaging.

European competition commissioner Joaquin Almunia said: "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."

WhatsApp and its rivals such as KakaoTalk, Viber and China's WeChat have in recent years won over telecoms operators' customers with a free text messaging option.

Mobile messaging services totalled about $120 billion last year, posing a serious threat to the telecoms sector's revenue, according to market researcher Ovum.

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