China antitrust authorities have approved Google’s proposed $12.5 billion purchase of handset maker Motorola Mobility, clearing the way for the online advertising giant to finalize the transaction. The deal had previously been approved by regulators in the United States and Europe.
China did offer up a single condition, however: Google must keep its Android mobile OS—which powers smartphones made by Motorola Mobility as well as numerous rivals—free and available without discrimination to competitors for at least 5 years.
That condition might seem unnecessary, since Google’s open approach with Android has driven it to the apex of the smartphone market in just a few short years. But it protects Chinese smartphone makers such as ZTE and Huawei Technologies, which compete with Android licensees from other countries.
Google indicated that it intended to accede to China’s requirements. “Our stance since we agreed to acquire Motorola has not changed, and we look forward to closing the deal,” a Google spokesperson said.
Indeed, Google is now expected to close the purchase quickly and, according to various reports, could lay off many Motorola Mobility employees after it concludes an examination of its workforce. Motorola currently employs 19,000 people.
Google announced its intention to acquire Motorola Mobility in August 2011, with the express purpose of acquiring Motorola’s extensive patent portfolio, much of which involves mobile technologies. It is the largest corporate purchase Google has made so far. In fact, the $12.5 billion price tag is more than all of Google’s other 185 acquisitions combined.