Continued from page 1

SAN FRANCISCO | Google’s $12.5 billion acquisition of cellphone maker Motorola Mobility has won the approval of European antitrust regulators, moving Google a major step closer to completing the biggest deal in its 13-year history.

The blessing from the European Union means Google Inc. just needs to clear a few more regulatory hurdles before it can take control of Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. and expand into manufacturing phones, tablet computers and possibly other consumer devices for the first time.

Google is counting on Motorola Mobility’s more than 17,000 patents - a crucial weapon in an intellectual arms race with Apple, Microsoft and other rivals to gain more control over smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices.

In granting its approval, the EU raised concerns about Motorola’s aggressive enforcement of its patents. EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said regulators will “keep a close eye on the behavior of all market players in the sector.”

Google still needs government approvals in the U.S., China, Taiwan and Israel.

INVESTIGATION

Independent group inspects Apple suppliers

NEW YORK | Apple said Monday that an independent group, the Fair Labor Association, has started inspecting working conditions in the Chinese factories where its iPads and iPhones are assembled.

Amid growing criticism over labor and environmental practices - especially in China - Apple, last month, disclosed a list of suppliers for its popular gadgets for the first time.

The FLA team began the inspections Monday morning at Foxconn City in Shenzhen, China, Apple said Monday. The complex employs and houses hundreds of thousands of workers.

Foxconn, a unit of Taiwan’s Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., employs an estimated 1 million to 1.1 million people in China at a series of huge factory campuses. Foxconn assembles iPads and iPhones for Apple, Xbox 360 gaming consoles for Microsoft and other gadgets for companies including Hewlett-Packard and Dell.

From wire dispatches and staff reports