Tue, Feb 27, 2024

Microsoft Completes $69 Billion Acquisition of Activision Blizzard After Regulatory Approval

Microsoft (MSFT.O) has completed its $69 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard (ATVI.O), which would fundamentally restructure the video game industry. The transaction, which was concluded on Friday, is expected to strengthen Microsoft's position in the game sector, allowing it to fight more aggressively with industry leader Sony (6758.T).

The acquisition faced a notable hurdle when it was initially blocked by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) in April, citing concerns about Microsoft potentially gaining excessive control in the nascent cloud gaming sector. However, a subsequent development saw the CMA reopening the case and ultimately granting its approval for the merger.

The turning point in this regulatory saga came when Microsoft agreed to sell the streaming rights to Activision's games to Ubisoft Entertainment (UBIP.PA). This pivotal concession was described by the CMA as a "gamechanger" and a unique outcome that no other competition agency globally had achieved.

The CMA, which had previously blocked the deal, stated that the new agreement "will stop Microsoft from locking up competition in cloud gaming as this market takes off, preserving competitive prices and services for UK cloud gaming customers."

This landmark decision represents the most significant test of the CMA's authority since Britain's departure from the European Union. The CMA emphasized that it remained steadfast in the face of criticism from the merging companies, asserting that its resolute stance had delivered an outcome that is favorable for competition, consumers, and economic growth.

Microsoft had announced its intention to acquire Activision Blizzard in early 2022, aiming to enhance its presence in console, mobile, PC, and cloud gaming to compete with industry giants like Tencent and Sony. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) opposed the deal, but with the CMA's approval, Microsoft can now proceed.

The European Commission had granted its approval in May, accepting Microsoft's commitments to license Activision's games to other platforms, including popular titles like "Overwatch" and "World of Warcraft."

The British government, while offering limited support to the CMA, emphasized the importance of regulatory independence and the need to encourage investment. CMA Chief Executive Sarah Cardell affirmed the regulator's impartiality, stating that it would not be "swayed by corporate lobbying" and that it remained "free from political influence."

Ben Barringer, an equity analyst at Quilter Cheviot, noted that the CMA's decision is a victory but also highlighted the importance of not over-regulating the tech sector to maintain a business-friendly environment in the UK.

In response to the CMA's approval, Microsoft's Vice Chair and President, Brad Smith, expressed gratitude for the thorough review and decision, asserting that the acquisition will benefit players and the gaming industry globally. Activision Blizzard also welcomed the news, looking forward to becoming part of the Xbox team.

This acquisition marks a significant shift in the video gaming landscape and sets the stage for Microsoft to strengthen its position in the highly competitive gaming industry.

Disclaimer: This news article is based on the information available as of October 13, 2023. Subsequent developments may not be included.

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