Microsoft effectively charms EU with merger remedies; UK watchdog is next

Microsoft’s consistent efforts to convince regulators that the Activision merger is not a threat to competition are now paying off. After relentless assurances and establishing agreements with rivals, the company is now expected to earn the approval of the European Union. To ensure its absolute victory, the software giant is targeting UK’s Competition and Markets Authority next after its lawyers reportedly met with the British watchdog, signifying another chance of convincing it through proposed remedies. 

A report from Reuters citing three individuals with knowledge of the matter claims that Microsoft can now await a positive response from the EU about the $69 billion deal, thanks to its agreement with Nintendo and Nvidia. Making things better for the Redmond company is the fact that the European regulator won’t demand structural remedies, which could result in the sell-off of Activision assets just to gain approval. Nonetheless, the company is reportedly preparing other behavioral remedies like “future conduct” to further soothe the concerns of its rivals once the deal closes. The EU is expected to share its decision by April 25.

Meanwhile, CMA met with Microsoft. According to Bloomberg, the competition regulator held a private hearing with Microsoft’s lawyers in London this Monday, while Activision Blizzard separately had a meeting with the agency last Wednesday. In a sort of good news, the talks seem to be the start of the CMA becoming more considerable about the deal.

According to the reports, CMA will reportedly now consider “other remedies,” which is good for Microsoft as it won’t settle for the sell-off solution the agency recommended weeks ago. Bloomberg report says CMA’s provisional findings (which can be recalled as unfavorable for Microsoft) were discussed in the hearing alongside the assessment of “the feasibility of proposed remedies.” This confirmed the earlier report this week from MLex about Microsoft offering solutions that include a “guarantee of 100 percent parity” for Xbox and PlayStation’s access to COD and “legally binding commitments.” And in hopes of fully securing the approval of CMA, Microsoft reportedly agreed to have a third-party monitor to supervise their compliance after the merger is cleared.

Nonetheless, saying this is a sure win for Microsoft is still impossible. According to the report, the CMA will also listen to the side of Sony through another hearing scheduled next week. Apparently, being the loudest critic of the deal, Sony might continue its protest against the merger and it probably even has more tricks up its sleeve. And whatever moves Sony might take next, it is certain that they will affect CMA’s decision which is expected to come out on April 26.

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