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Microsoft Takes a Big Hit

Software giant Microsoft is seeking regulatory approval for an acquisition to cement its prominent role in videogames.
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Microsoft  (MSFT) - Get Microsoft Corporation Report just took a hit.  

The software giant will have to wait before starting to measure its power in the lucrative videogame industry. British regulators said July 6 that they'd open an investigation into Microsoft's $68.7 billion takeover bid for videogame publisher Activision Blizzard  (ATVI) - Get Activision Blizzard Inc Report

This investigation into the most expensive acquisition in the history of the Redmond, Wash., group, co-founded by Bill Gates and Paul Allen, aims to determine whether this marriage would hinder competition.

The U.K. Competition and Markets Authority "is considering whether it is or may be the case that this transaction, if carried into effect, will result in the creation of a relevant merger situation under the merger provisions of the Enterprise Act 2002 and, if so, whether the creation of that situation may be expected to result in a substantial lessening of competition within any market or markets in the United Kingdom for goods or services," the regulator said in a notice on its website.

The tech giant said it was not surprised by the agency's decision, and that it will cooperate with the inquiry.

"We expect and think it's appropriate for regulators to take a close look at this acquisition," Lisa Tanzi, corporate vice president and general counsel at Microsoft, said in an emailed statement. "We have been clear about how we plan to run our gaming business and why we believe the deal will benefit gamers, developers, and the industry."

Microsoft Makes Antitrust Commitments

"We're committed to answering questions from regulators and ultimately believe a thorough review will help the deal close with broad confidence, and that it will be positive for competition," Tanzi added. "We remain confident the deal will close in fiscal year 2023 as initially anticipated."

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The U.K. regulator is seeking feedback from the public until July 20. The CMA could decide whether it needs additional details. The regulator says it will be able to make its decision on Sept. 1, but this decision could also be just a preliminary step.

Microsoft had said that the Activision Blizzard deal would make the tech giant the third largest player in videogames after Tencent  (TCTZF) and Sony  (SONY) - Get Sony Group Corporation American Depositary Shares Report. The group has also made several commitments to win the approval of regulators worldwide.

The firm has said it would enable all developers to access its app store "as long as they meet reasonable and transparent standards for quality and safety." It also promised to "continue to respect the privacy of consumers in our app stores, giving them controls to manage their data and how it is used."

"Our vision is to enable gamers to play any game on any device anywhere, including by streaming from the cloud," Brad Smith, president of Microsoft, said on a blog post on Feb. 9. 

"App stores on the most relevant and popular everyday devices like mobile phones; PCs, including Windows PCs; and, in time, the cloud, are important to realizing this vision.

"Put simply, the world needs open app markets, and this requires open app stores. The principles we’re announcing today reflect our commitment to this goal."

The deal, if approved by regulators, would give Microsoft control of popular franchises like Call of Duty, Candy Crush and Warcraft. 

The firm is already a major player in videogame consoles with the Xbox. Its rivals are Sony with the PlayStation and Nintendo  (NTDOF)  with the Wii.