UK regulator says it may clear Microsoft’s new Activision Blizzard takeover offer

Microsoft submitted a new proposal to U.K. regulators for the takeover of American game publisher Activision Blizzard after its initial proposal was rejected.Nurphoto | Nurphoto | Getty ImagesLONDON — The U.K.’s competition regulator on Friday said Microsoft’s restructured takeover proposal of Activision Blizzard, submitted in August, “opens the door to the deal being cleared.”The U.K. Competition and Markets Authority had blocked the Redmond tech giant’s initial $69 billion transaction, first put forward in January 2022, on concerns that it would restrict competition in the nascent cloud gaming sector.Microsoft then proposed a new takeover deal, offering to divest cloud rights for existing Activision PC and console games — and for new games published by Activision over the next 15 years — to French game publisher Ubisoft Entertainment before the sale is completed.”While the CMA has identified limited residual concerns with the new deal, Microsoft has put forward remedies which the CMA has provisionally concluded should address these issues,” the regulator said Friday, adding it still has “limited residual concerns that certain provisions in the sale of Activision’s cloud streaming rights to Ubisoft could be circumvented, terminated, or not enforced.”Microsoft has offered remedies to ensure that the CMA can enforce the terms of the sale of Activision rights to Ubisoft, which the CMA provisionally said should address these lingering qualms. The U.K. regulator is now consulting until Oct. 6 on these points.”We are encouraged by this positive development in the CMA’s review process. We presented solutions that we believe fully address the CMA’s remaining concerns related to cloud game streaming, and we will continue to work toward earning approval to close prior to the October 18 deadline,” said Brad Smith, Microsoft vice chair and president, in an emailed statement.The CMA has put up the staunchest opposition to Microsoft’s acquisition of the Call of Duty maker, which has also encountered criticism from European Union authorities and U.S. regulators. EU officials were first to clear the deal in May, after Microsoft offered concessions to the tune of royalty-free licenses to cloud gaming platforms to stream Activision games that a buyer has purchased. The CMA refused similar terms. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission meanwhile took its attempt to freeze the takeover to court. A federal judge in San Francisco denied the injunction in July.

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