Microsoft faces UK anti-competitive regulators over Activision acquisition

Kareem Anderson

UK CMA Office Logo

Once again, Europe may become a thorn in Microsoft’s side as the United Kingdom launches a new and separate anti-competitive investigation into the company’s bid to acquire Activision Blizzard by 2023.

According to a recent filing, the U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority has launched an investigation into Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard as it looks to determine “whether the deal may harm competition – through higher prices, lower quality, or reduced choice.”

With well over 120 acquisitions under its belt over the course of its 47-year lifespan, Microsoft is no stranger to the rigorous and scrutinizing process of gaining regulatory approval for its moves, and after announcing its $68B to acquire Activision Blizzard in late 2021, the company began prepping for a gauntlet of investigations and due-diligence measures by over 220 international bodies representing 130 plus different jurisdictions.

The news of the U.K.’s CMA investigation comes as no surprise to company, and follows a US led Federal Trade Commission probe, an Australian Competition & Consumer Commission inspection, and look from the Securities and Exchange Commision.

However, Microsoft seems publicly unphased at this point as corporate vice president and general counsel Lisa Tanzi put it,

“We will fully cooperate with the CMA’s merger view. We expect and that’s appropriate for regulators to take a close look at the acquisition. We have been clear about how we plan to run our gaming business and why we believe the deal benefits gamers, developers, and the industry. We’re committed to answering questions from regulators and ultimately believe a thorough review will help the deal close with broad confidence, and that it will be positive for competition. We remain confident the deal will close in fiscal year 2023 as initially anticipated.”

The U.K.’s CMA probe is slated to start today July 6, 2022, and run through July 20, 2022 with investigators combing through transactions, provisions and market analysis with an invitation to comment throughout the process. Ultimately, the CMA would like to render a phase 1 decision by September 1, 2022, but also notes the decision date is statutory and contingent on changes that may occur during the inquiry.

While Europe tends to be aggressively consumer-centric in its probes into anti-competitive practices and or behaviors, the news of the CMA investigation has done little to move investors in either direction leaving Microsoft’s stock confidently in place as the company looks to have all probes and investigations concluded by summer 2023.