Sunday 23 October 2016

Exclusive: Microsoft won't cut off LinkedIn data to arch rival Salesforce

Published 03/10/2016 | 13:39

Microsoft's Brad Smith
Microsoft's Brad Smith

Microsoft won’t stop arch-competitor Salesforce from getting data from its €23bn acquisition, Linkedin, as part of an unfair power play, the company’s president and chief legal counsel has said.

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Speaking to the Irish Independent in Dublin, Brad Smith dismissed recent accusations by Salesforce chief executive Marc Benioff that Microsoft would use its new ownership of LinkedIn to cut off data to Salesforce.

“It is not something that we have any intention of doing,” he said. “The LinkedIn data is public today and we want to make that data useful in lots of new ways.”

Last week, Salesforce lodged a formal complaint with the European Union about potential anti-competitive consequences arising from Microsoft’s €23bn takeover of LinkedIn.

“Microsoft’s proposed acquisition of LinkedIn threatens the future of innovation and competition,” said Salesforce’s chief legal officer Burke Norton. “By gaining ownership of LinkedIn’s unique dataset of over 450 million professionals in more than 200 countries, Microsoft will be able to deny competitors access to that data, and in doing so obtain an unfair competitive advantage.”

This was followed up by a tweet from Salesforce chief executive Marc Benioff, accusing Microsoft of planning “anticompetitive bundles and denying access to [Linkedin] data to rivals”.

But Mr Smith told the Irish Independent that Microsoft is currently undergoing “good and healthy” discussions with EU competition authorities about the acquisition.

“The European Commission has naturally been reviewing with us the whole range of issues,” he said. “They ask lots of questions as they always do and as they always should. I think they have good questions. I think we have good and clear answers to their questions, so from my perspective this is an acquisition that is going to promote competition.”

Mr Smith also said that complaints from Salesforce on competition grounds were undermined by its own intentions.

“Obviously if Salesforce thought that, as the largest CRM provider, it could buy LinkedIn, as it obviously did, I have to believe that as the fourth largest CRM provider, we can buy LinkedIn. So I look forward to the continuing conversation and I remain strongly of the view that it will bring more competition to the marketplace.”

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