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Google close to settling EU antitrust probe

A settlement with the European Union's regulator would mean that Google, the world's biggest internet search engine, would escape a possible fine of as much as $5 billion or 10 percent of its 2012 revenue. Such an outcome would mirror the company's success in the United States last year where it received only a mild reprimand from the Federal Trade Commission, which said Google had not manipulated its website results following a 19-month investigation. Google and the European Commission are close to a deal and a decision is expected in the next few days or in a couple of weeks at the latest, a senior European Union official told Reuters. A second person familiar with the matter confirmed the likely settlement. A Commission spokesman declined to comment on whether or not a deal was close. "We are at a critical moment in the investigation," he said.

"We don't comment on rumors and speculation," a Google spokesman said in a statement.

The EU official said Google's latest proposal, its third since EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia rejected an earlier offer in October as unacceptable, was "much better".

It includes commitments from Google on how it will treat rivals and how it will use content from other providers in future.

The Commission has said that Google may have favored its own products and services in search results at the expense of competitors.

Google submitted the new offer in mid-January, in essence building on its second proposal with no dramatic changes, the second source said.

In that offer, the U.S. company said it would let rivals display their logos and web links in a prominent box, and content providers decide what material Google can use for its own services.

It would also make it easier for advertisers to move their campaigns to rival platforms such as Yahoo! and Microsoft's Bing.

EU regulators will not seek feedback from the 125 rivals, including Microsoft and third parties, who commented on Google's previous proposals as they have a clear idea of their thinking after the last two market tests, the official said.

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