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EU's Vestager says analysing Facebook reply to WhatsApp probe

BRUSSELS, March 22 EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager said on Wednesday she was reviewing Facebook's response to charges the U.S. social network provided misleading information during its bid for messaging service WhatsApp which may result in a hefty fine for the company.

The European Commission in December last year said Facebook's statements during the regulator's scrutiny of the $22 billion deal in 2014 were incorrect when it said that it was unable reliably to match the two companies' user accounts.

However, this was technically possible at that time, the EU Competition Commissioner said, giving Facebook until Jan. 31 to defend itself.

"We have now got the reply from Facebook and we are now analysing it," Vestager told lawmakers during a European Parliament hearing.

The company faces a fine of as much as 1 percent of its global turnover, or about $179 million based on 2015 revenues.

Microsoft was hit with a 561 million euro ($606.44 million)penalty in 2013 for breaking an antitrust promise to regulators, underlining how serious the Commission views procedural breaches.

($1 = 0.9251 euros) (Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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