EU approves Microsoft-Activision merger threatened by UK veto
The European Commission on Monday approved the acquisition of the American video game publisher Activision Blizzard by Microsoft for 69 billion dollars, three weeks after a British veto which jeopardizes the operation.
This green light is conditional on Microsoft’s compliance with measures proposed by the American giant to guarantee competition in the market for dematerialized games accessible by streaming. These commitments “fully address the competition concerns raised by the Commission”, the EU executive said in a statement.
In a video game sector in full consolidation, Microsoft, which markets the Xbox console, announced in January 2022 the acquisition of Activision Blizzard, publisher of hits such as “Call of Duty”, “World of Warcraft” and “Candy Crush”. , for 69 billion dollars, a record amount in this sector.
The merger, if completed, would give rise to the third player in the sector in terms of turnover, behind the Chinese Tencent and the Japanese Sony, maker of the PlayStation.
The European Commission, guardian of competition in the EU, opened an in-depth investigation into this operation in November. But the procedure will have made it possible to allay his fears.
However, the future of the takeover remains uncertain. Because, for the first time since Brexit in an issue of such magnitude, Brussels and London have adopted divergent positions.
The British Competition Authority (CMA) announced on April 26 its decision to block the mega-merger, judging the risks too high for competition.
Microsoft had immediately announced that it would appeal. “This decision appears to reflect a misunderstanding of this market and how cloud technology actually works,” the group said.
The green light from Brussels should provide him with solid arguments to challenge the CMA’s decision before the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) in the United Kingdom.
“If Microsoft does not win the appeal before the CAT, it will not be able to proceed with the acquisition even if the European Commission approves it,” said Anne Witt, specialist in competition law at EDHEC (France).
“Unless, of course, Microsoft decides to exit the UK market, but that seems unlikely,” she explained.