The $68.7 billion deal is the biggest in the tech industry in recent years and strengthens Microsoft’s position in the growing gaming markets.
Microsoft is exploring legal options to close its record-breaking $68.7 billion deal to acquire Activision Blizzard, even if it cannot overturn the UK regulator’s opposition. As we reported earlier, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) blocked the deal in late April, saying it would harm competition in the cloud gaming markets. Microsoft has filed an appeal to the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT), but even if it succeeds, the case will go back to the CMA.
Success is not guaranteed, so it makes sense that Microsoft is looking for other ways to close the deal. According to a paywalled article published by MLex, some lawyers were hired and tasked with finding such options. The first option would be for Activision Blizzard to withdraw from the United Kingdom, while its games would continue to be sold there by a third-party distributor. Another option would be for Microsoft to forcefully close the transaction and try to invalidate the interim order issued by the CMA to prevent Microsoft from acquiring any interest in Activision Blizzard. The lawyers are also looking at challenging the CMA’s final veto in court, arguing that the UK authority should not be allowed to impose a global ban just to protect the interests of UK consumers.
All these options would be considered “nuclear” under normal circumstances. However, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella did not rule out these possibilities when he was asked in an interview whether there was any chance of simply closing the deal and facing the possible consequences in the UK market. Although not included in the MLex article, another option was suggested by analysts such as Michael Pachter from Wedbush Securities. This would be to simply remove Activision Blizzard games from the UK version of Game Pass, while adding those same games to the Game Pass versions elsewhere in the world. The feasibility of this option remains to be verified. However, what is clear is that Microsoft is willing to play hardball to get Activision Blizzard. Phil Spencer, CEO of the gaming division, reassured fans and employees alike that the acquisition is only part of Microsoft’s long-term strategy to gain ground in the gaming markets. However, it is obvious that it would be a huge boost to the company’s plans, especially for the company’s plans, especially for the Game Pass subscription service. The Microsoft/Activision Blizzard deal has already been approved by 39 countries: China, Japan, South Korea, Chile, South Africa, Brazil, Ukraine, Serbia and the whole European Economic Area. The next countries to give their verdict on the merger are expected to be Australia, New Zealand and Canada.