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UK regulator adds further restrictions against Microsoft, Activision Blizzard

Competition and Markets Authority says firms need to seek permission before they "acquire an interest" in each other

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The Competition and Markets Authority, the UK regulator who last month blocked Microsoft's proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard, has imposed further restrictions on both companies.

An interim order published yesterday by the organisation details new restrictions on either firm "acquiring an interest" in the other.

Under the CMA's order, Microsoft and Activision will need to secure prior written consent from the regulator before either one:

  • acquires an interest in the other company or any of its subsidiaries, e.g. investing in each other's development studios
  • acquires an interest in another business that holds an interest in the other company
  • hold an option to acquire an interest in either of the above

The CMA said these restrictions have been added "for the purpose of preventing pre-emptive action" from either Microsoft or Activision Blizzard.

Last month, the CMA chose not to approve the $68.7 billion acquisition due to concerns over Microsoft becoming dominant in the cloud gaming space.

Microsoft has vowed to appeal against the decision, with the Xbox firm, Activision Blizzard and the CMA now preparing their cases for the Competition Appeal Tribunal.

While the deal has been approved in a variety of other markets – including Japan, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Chile and most recently Ukraine – Microsoft and Activision need to win over the regulators in the US, UK and Europe for the acquisition to go through.

While the CMA is the only one to formally block the deal, the US Federal Trade Commission issued a legal complaint back in December, with a court hearing due to be held in August.

The EU issued a formal anti-trust warning back in January, and is due to make its final decision by May 22.

You can read more about the regulatory hurdles Microsoft and Activision Blizzard face in our extensive guide.