By Eric Auchard
(Reuters) - Google Inc has combined its two European regional divisions as it seeks to meet the challenges of tougher regulation across the continent, a source close to the company said on Thursday.
The Internet giant is merging its northern and western European division with the unit covering southern and eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa, the source said.
The shake-up follows a year of setbacks for the company on political and regulatory fronts on issues ranging from antitrust to privacy to how much tax it pays in different European nations, as well as fraught relations with some European industries including media and telecom groups.
The decision was taken to simplify the organization, both for commercial reasons as well as to work more effectively with business partners and policy makers.
Google's regional headquarters will remain in Dublin, where it employs thousands of staff, and the reorganization will not result in job losses, the source said.
The U.S. company has become a lightning rod for criticism in Europe of aggressive Silicon Valley business practices, a role reversal from previous years when it was revered as a standard-bearer of innovation and new economic possibilities.
In response, Google has argued that for Europe to remain competitive in global markets, it needs to form a single digital market instead of relying on national regulations in its 28-member states that often act to protect local industries.
Matt Brittin, who previously led Google's northern and western European division, will head up the combined Europe, Middle East and Africa operation while Carlo d'Asaro Biondo, formerly head of the other regional unit, will take on a strategy role, the source said.
Brittin, a former Olympic rower for Great Britain, joined Google in 2007 to run its UK operations, leaving newspaper publishing group Trinity Mirror where he was director of strategy. He will remain based in London.
D'Asaro Biondo, previously an executive with media group Lagardère, AOL Europe and computer services company Unisys, will continue to work from Paris.
He will manage Google's strategic partnerships in the region, which include working to deepen ties with newspaper publishers, telecom operators and carmakers.
Brittin will appear in Brussels on Thursday to argue the company's case that it serves as a growth engine for European business, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises, because the Internet helps create a level playing field.
He will announce Google's plan to fund a digital job-training program for 1 million Europeans over the next two years, the source said.
News of the company's European reorganization was first reported in the Financial Times late on Thursday.
(Additional reporting by Subrat Patnaik in Bengaluru; Editing by Tom Pfeiffer and Pravin Char)