Video games: Microsoft is close to completing its acquisition of Activision Blizzard – Le Journal de Montréal

Microsoft, owner of Xbox, is close to completing its $69 billion acquisition of video game maker Activision Blizzard, publisher of “Call of Duty,” “Diablo” and “Candy Crush,” following a preliminary green light from London.

• Also read: Microsoft presents a largely revised takeover offer for Activision in London

This $69 billion mega-buyout is part of Microsoft’s very expensive bet to strengthen its position in gaming and help its successful Xbox console compete with Sony’s PlayStation.

Britain’s competition authority CMA announced on Friday that it is giving the preliminary green light to American giant Microsoft’s new takeover agreement with Activision Blizzard.

The CMA reported “limited remaining concerns” in a press release, for which Microsoft “has proposed solutions” to address them.

“This merger could only happen if competition, innovation and choice in online games were maintained,” commented Sarah Cardell, the Director General of the UK Police.

“In response to our original ban, Microsoft has now substantially revised this agreement and taken the necessary steps to address our concerns,” it continued.

The CMA says it has opened a consultation on Microsoft’s proposed changes until October 6th.

Microsoft Vice President Brad Smith responded on social network Twitter on Friday, saying he was “encouraged by this positive progress in the CMA review process.”

“The Fig Leaf”

“This (preliminary) approval from the CMA is critical to completing our merger,” Activision CEO Bobby Kotick added.

The technology giant submitted an amended version of its takeover project for Activision Blizzard to the British authority a month ago and was finally hoping for a green light after the rejection in April.

Microsoft is planning notable transfers, particularly in the new edition of its gigantic takeover project: Activision Blizzard’s online gaming rights – including those of the global hits “Call of Duty” and “Candy Crush” – will be sold to the French company Ubisoft.

The CMA feared that the operation in its original form would too restrict competition in the dematerialized games market.

The blow that ended this mega-operation at the end of April had sparked Microsoft’s anger, with Brad Smith lamenting the “darkest day of four decades (of Microsoft) in Britain”, adding that it shocked the American ” Trust” of the giant in the UK as a welcoming country for technology companies.

The European Commission, for its part, approved this acquisition in May.

Jonathan Compton, competition lawyer at DMH Stallard, notes that the CMA is the “last of the ‘big three’ regulators to approve this deal.”

“The EU’s green light in May and the suppression of opposition from the American FTC had isolated” the CMA in its standoff with Microsoft, he adds.

According to him, the proposed changes are a “fig leaf” and “many in the competition law field will question whether the changes to the structure of the revised agreement really address the CMA’s original concerns”.

In particular, despite the transfer of distribution rights to Microsoft’s streaming games to Ubisoft, “many opportunities remain for the latter to control Activision’s network games”.

Alex Haffner, another competition lawyer and associate partner at Fladgate, estimates that if the green light is finally given, “both parties will have achieved their desired goal – at least publicly”.

The CMA gave interested parties “two weeks to comment on Microsoft’s proposed solutions” before announcing its final decision, but it now seems inevitable that the agreement will receive full approval .”

Microsoft and Activision Blizzard had pushed back the deadline for the acquisition in July to October 18, an additional deadline that should allow them to overcome the final regulatory hurdles, particularly in the United Kingdom.