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Regulatory approval allows Google acquisition of Looker to close

Google's purchase of analytics vendor Looker was approved by a United Kingdom regulatory agency, more than eight months after the acquisition was revealed.

The Google acquisition of analytics vendor Looker was finally completed Thursday, more than eight months after the deal was first revealed.

The $2.6 billion purchase, unveiled on June 6 just days before Salesforce's $15.7 billion acquisition of Tableau, had been held up since December by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), a regulatory agency that essentially serves as the United Kingdom's antitrust watchdog.

The completion of Google's acquisition of Looker was confirmed in a blog post by Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian.

"I'm pleased to announce that Google has completed its acquisition of Looker," Kurian said. "Together, we're excited to offer customers a comprehensive analytics solution that integrates and visualizes insights at every layer of their business."

Looker CEO Frank Bien released a similar blog post, and stated that Thursday is "a historic day that begins an exciting journey for Looker, our employees, customers and partners."

Looker, founded in 2012 and based in Santa Cruz, Calif., is a cloud-based business intelligence software vendor, and most recently unveiled updates to its platform.

The Google acquisition of Looker, meanwhile, enhances the BI capabilities of Google Cloud, expanding Google's ability to compete with fellow cloud giants Microsoft Azure and AWS.

Analysts said Google and Looker will be a strong fit now that they're finally allowed to proceed together.

An organization's sales information is displayed in a sample gif from Looker.
A sample gif shows the embedded analytics capabilities in Looker 7, the most recent update to Looker's business intelligence platform.

"This was always a good match, better than Salesforce and Tableau," said Wayne Eckerson, founder and president of Eckerson Group.

"Looker jibes well with BigQuery," he said, referring to Google's web analytics service.

Meanwhile, the financial support Looker figures to gain from Google should also be a benefit, both to the company itself as it enhances its platform and to its users.

"Users absolutely stand to benefit from the standpoint of Looker having a deep-pocketed parent," said Doug Henschen, analyst at Constellation Research. "And Looker can exploit Google's strength in [augmented intelligence] and data enrichment. Before, Looker was a small, fast-growing company, and now we know they will be a serious contender in analytics."

At the time the Google acquisition of Looker was first revealed in June, Kurian declined to reveal a roadmap for Looker.

Kurian, however, said that Looker will operate as an independent subsidiary and insisted that Looker, despite becoming part of Google Cloud, will remain a multi-cloud platform, something Henschen said is critical.

This was always a good match, better than Salesforce and Tableau. Looker jibes well with BigQuery.
Wayne EckersonFounder and president, Eckerson Group

"They vowed when the deal was announced that Looker would continue to integrate and run on top of other clouds, and that's been a key differentiator for Looker," he said. "Their backbone is third-party cloud databases. But with Google, they'll want it to run best and work best and be most powerful on its home turf."

Similarly, Eckerson said that Looker, despite now becoming part of Google Cloud, needs to maintain its multi-cloud capabilities.

"I think Google will keep the Looker brand," he said. "A BI tool has to be ecumenical and be able to query all databases, so it wouldn't be good to Google-ize Looker. It would be smart for them to tighten up the integration with Google Cloud to make it easier for Looker customers to work with Google, but remain ecumenical."

One concern the analysts don't have is that the eight-month delay between the time the Google acquisition of Looker was first revealed and its closing on Thursday might have hurt Looker.

If users had any worry, it would have happened right away, according to Eckerson.

"If there was any hesitation, it would have been at the beginning because a customer is a Microsoft shop or an Amazon shop," he said.

Henschen, meanwhile, pointed out that while eight months may be a long time for an acquisition to close, it isn't much time at all in the lifecycle of a business.

"Eight months is kind of a blip -- I can't see it being a serious problem," he said. "Looking forward, it's nothing but positive for [users]. They just got made, they got a blue-chip name behind them. Everyone is looking to the cloud now, and there's no reason to think Google won't uphold its promise [of allowing Looker to remain multi-cloud]."

The CMA, which is considering regulating large tech vendors, opened its investigation into the Google acquisition of Looker on Dec. 17, citing the potential for the deal to result in less competition in the UK market.

At the time the CMA launched its investigation, Google's acquisition of Looker had already received regulatory approval in the United States.

After nearly two months, the CMA finally gave the deal its approval and paved the way for the acquisition to close.

"The CMA considered whether the loss of direct competition between Google and Looker in the supply of BI tools could lead to increased prices or reductions in quality," the agency said in a statement. "The CMA found this was unlikely because Google and Looker are not considered close competitors by businesses using BI tools, who can still choose from other providers, including Microsoft, Oracle, Tableau, SAP and IBM."

Now that the Google acquisition of Looker is finally complete and parsing of statements made eight months ago can end, attention turns to how Google will truly integrate Looker into Google's cloud operations.

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