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EU grants Apple unconditional approval to buy Shazam

Apple has been given the greenlight to buy the UK-based song recognition service Shazam following a six month investigation by EU regulators.

The deal, which values Shazam at £286m, represents the second biggest takeover in Apple’s history, following its $3bn purchase of Beats in 2014.

Margrethe Vestager, the EU anti-trust commissioner regarded as one of Silicon Valley’s most powerful critics, launched a probe into the proposed takeover in February and an “in-depth investigation” in April.

Vestager expressed concern at the time about the prospect of Shazam shutting off referrals to other streaming services and providing Apple with access to commercially sensitive data about its rivals’ customers.

But in a statement issued on Thursday afternoon (6 Sept), the competition chief revealed that the merger had been granted unconditional approval.

“Data is key in the digital economy,” said Vestager. “We must therefore carefully review transactions which lead to the acquisition of important sets of data, including potentially commercially sensitive ones, to ensure they do not restrict competition.”

“After thoroughly analysing Shazam’s user and music data, we found that their acquisition by Apple would not reduce competition in the digital music streaming market.”

Vestager’s team concluded that the app has “limited importance” as an entry point to Apple Music’s rival streaming services, such as France’s Deezer and Sweden’s Spotify, which launched the biggest IPO of any European tech company in history earlier this year.

Apple and Shazam have enjoyed a close working relationship for more than a decade. Shazam made one of the first apps for the iPhone and its technology has since been integrated into Apple’s Siri voice assistant.

The EU ruling paves the way for Apple to now more deeply integrate Shazam’s technology into its operating systems and Apple Music service. Its data could be used to provide more accurate recommendations, for example.

Some commentators have speculated that Apple may seek to gain a competitive advantage over its competitors by forcing Shazam’s users to stream songs through Apple Music.

Since being founded in 1999, Shazam has become one of the UK’s most popular app-based tech platforms. It boasts more than 150 million users worldwide and has built a popular brand in the US in particular.

Apple Music’s American subscriber base overtook Spotify’s for the first time in July. The company’s executives will be hoping that the Shazam deal will now help it to take the top spot globally too.

Apple has been reached for comment.