CMA criticises Microsoft’s conduct during antitrust probe after structural change to deal allows it to clinch regulatory approval
The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has criticised Microsoft’s conduct after the company closed its $75 billion (£62bn) acquisition of Activision Blizzard on Friday, the biggest-ever for the gaming industry.
“Businesses and their advisors should be in no doubt that the tactics employed by Microsoft are no way to engage with the CMA,” said CMA chief executive Sarah Cardell, in reference to Microsoft’s conduct during the CMA’s investigation.
“Microsoft had the chance to restructure during our initial investigation but instead continued to insist on a package of measures that we told them simply wouldn’t work. Dragging out proceedings in this way only wastes time and money.”
The CMA gave its final clearance to the deal early on Friday, clearing the way for the deal to close later in the day.
The agency had initially blocked the deal over concerns it would hamper competition in the emerging cloud gaming market.
It had begun court proceedings with the Xbox maker, but later said it would allow Microsoft to restructure the arrangement, in a surprise move.
The CMA then approved the deal after Microsoft agreed to sell the cloud streaming rights to French games publisher Ubisoft for a period of 15 years outside the European Economic Area (EEA), which includes EU countries as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.
Cardell said that with the sale “we’ve made sure Microsoft can’t have a stranglehold over this important and rapidly developing market”.
The move makes the CMA the only regulator to have forced significant structural changes to the deal.
“We’re grateful for the CMA’s thorough review and decision today,” Microsoft president Brad Smith said.
Theh European Commission on Friday said it would not carry out a new review of the merger, saying it did not constitute a new deal.
But the US’ Federal Trade Commission is proceeding with a challenge to the merger in its in-house court that could seek to force the two companies to separate.