UK initiates new investigation into Microsoft's Activision Blizzard acquisition over altered merger proposal

The UK has initiated a new investigation into Microsoft Corp.’s $69 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard Inc., following a substantial alteration to the proposed merger by the tech giant. This move, as reported by Bloomberg effectively resets the acquisition process to its initial stages, as announced by the country’s antitrust watchdog on Tuesday.

In an uncommon development, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) declared that it was reevaluating Microsoft’s offer after the company indicated its intention to sell the rights of all present and future Activision games for the next 15 years to Ubisoft Entertainment SA. It’s important to note that this divestment excludes the European Economic Area, as clarified by the CMA.

Such a reconsideration of a merger decision by the CMA at this juncture is highly unusual and comes after a series of significant twists and turns in the global regulatory battles surrounding the deal. The acquisition, which had previously appeared stagnant, received unexpected momentum after the UK agreed to review new evidence. Furthermore, Microsoft overcame the Federal Trade Commission’s legal challenge to the deal in the United States. In May, the European Union approved the deal with specific behavioral remedies.

Sarah Cardell, the head of the CMA, emphasized that this development does not constitute a green light for the acquisition. She stated, “This is not a green light. We will carefully and objectively assess the details of the restructured deal and its impact on competition, including in light of third-party comments.”

Consequently, the phase one investigation will recommence, with the CMA setting a statutory deadline of 18 October to complete its assessment.

(With inputs from Bloomberg)

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Updated: 22 Aug 2023, 01:43 PM IST


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