Unsurprisingly, it seems Microsoft may be exploring a Plan B option if their appeal of the UK’s Competition and Markets Authorities vote to block the Activision deal doesn’t play out in the company’s favor.
While Microsoft filed its formal appeal of the CMAs decision to block its acquisition of Activision Blizzard last week, a report from MLex, a lawyers’ news source, posits the idea that the company is actively working on an end-around to both the initial decision as well as the subsequent interim ultimatum the regulatory body dished out.
For now, Microsoft is publicly pursing the appeals process and has not stated any different, “Our priority is pursuing the appeal process in the UK, and we remain committed to constructive dialogue and solutions to address regulatory concerns,” according to a company spokesperson.
However, MLex understands that Microsoft has retained additional lawyers to examine possible ways for the company to close the deal in the face of an official veto from the CMA.
Some alternative paths for the closing Microsoft’s acquisition bid in spite of the CMA’s current decision is to have Activision leave the UK for “another European country”, and remove itself from CMA jurisdiction. Another option being bandied about by lawyers is Microsoft extending the same licensing concessions it gave the European Commission unilaterally across the UK.
Microsoft is also looking into the legality of the CMA to issue a global ban as it pertains to localized issues within UK markets. Microsoft and Activision could present a case that the CMA needs to narrow its ultimatum ban to only UK regions and thus allowing Microsoft to close wherever else it’s gotten approval.
Lastly, Microsoft could forge ahead with a close on the deal and when sued by the CMA for “violating” its global veto, take the matter to court on grounds of illegality.
Whatever the case may be, the Microsoft and Activision deal is still an active merger and could remain one even with a failed appeal to the Competition Appeals Tribunal.
For now, Microsoft has the next few weeks to purse the path of least resistance with an appeal to the CTA, and perhaps, nudging the tribunal into various conflicts of interest CMA directors may have knowingly or unknowingly engaged with during the investigatory process.