EC Gathers Feedback On Microsoft’s Nuance Buy, Despite US Approval

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European antitrust regulators are gathering competition data on Microsoft’s purchase of Nuance ahead of 21 December decision deadline

The European competition watchdog, the European Commission, is taking a deeper look into Microsoft’s acquisition of Nuance Communications.

Nuance Communications is an artificial intelligence and speech recognition company, that Redmond said it was acquiring for $16 billion (£11.3bn) back in April this year.

This was Microsoft’s second-largest acquisition to date, following its purchase of LinkedIn in 2016 for £18bn.

Nuance investigation

But now Reuters has reported that the EC is asking customers and competitors to draw up a list of concerns.

This data gathering is the most extensive by an antitrust authority since the companies announced the acquisition in April, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Microsoft declined to comment, and Nuance did not respond to a request for comment, Reuters has reported.

However there may be some surprise to news of the EC probe, after the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and US DoJ approved the deal in June this year.

The Australian Competition Commission in October also said it would not contest the deal.

Following that, the two companies filed for approval from the European Commission’s competition bureau last month, and the regulator has until 21 December to clear the deal or open a bigger investigation, Reuters reported.

The two companies had been expecting to close the acquisition by the end of this year, but said last month the timeline could slip to early next year.

According to Reuters, which has seen the EC questionnaire, it asks whether Microsoft and Nuance are competitors and whether a tie-up could affect clients and rivals, including whether Microsoft could favour Nuance over competing services.

Healthcare focus

Nuance Communications was founded in 1992 and was headquartered in Burlington, Massachusetts.

It is perhaps best known for having helped develop Apple’s Siri.

nuance_inge

However, it has also has built up a strong presence in the healthcare industry, with its software used by 77 percent of US hospitals.

Essentially Nuance makes a number of popular clinical speech-recognition tools used by doctors and radiologists to automate the process of generating clinical documentation.

Indeed, in the US, more than half of physicians and 75 percent of radiologists use its tools.

Nuance also provides technology for interactive voice-response systems, virtual assistants and digital and biometric systems to multiple industries.

For Microsoft the deal makes sense, as it will bolster Redmond’s presence in the healthcare market, and provide it with new voice and medical data to train artificial intelligence offerings in health, speech and biometric security.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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