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Microsoft’s Smith Applauds UK’s ‘Tough and Fair’ Stance Post Activision Blizzard Deal

 |  January 2, 2024

Microsoft President Brad Smith has expressed his appreciation for the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), describing the regulatory body as “tough and fair.” This comes after the CMA initially blocked Microsoft’s massive $68.7 billion deal with Activision Blizzard last year.

The controversy began in April when the CMA raised concerns about the proposed deal, leading Smith to criticize the regulator and express his disappointment, stating that confidence in the UK had been “severely shaken.” At the time, he even claimed that the European Union was a more attractive place to start a business than the UK, marking it as the “darkest day” for Microsoft in its four decades of working in Britain.

However, in a recent interview with the BBC’s Radio 4 Today program, Smith acknowledged a change in perspective. “I certainly learned a lot personally,” he admitted. “I wouldn’t step back necessarily from all of the concerns I raised when I talked way back in April, but I might choose slightly different words to make my point.”

Related: UK Regulator Throws Lifeline To Microsoft-Activision Blizzard Deal

The CMA forced Microsoft to restructure its Activision Blizzard deal, particularly requiring the tech giant to relinquish key cloud gaming rights in the UK and several other global markets. Despite the challenges, Smith commended the CMA’s strict standards. “The CMA held to a tough standard, and I respect that. In my view, it was tough and fair,” he stated. “It pushed Microsoft to change the acquisition that we had proposed for Activision Blizzard, to spin out certain rights that the CMA was concerned about with respect to cloud gaming.”

While Smith may have had a change of heart regarding his criticism of the CMA, the regulatory body was less impressed with Microsoft’s approach. CMA CEO Sarah Cardell issued a warning in October, stating, “Businesses and their advisors should be in no doubt that the tactics employed by Microsoft are no way to engage with the CMA.” She emphasized that Microsoft had the opportunity to restructure the deal during the initial investigation but chose to insist on measures that the CMA deemed unworkable, ultimately leading to a protracted process that consumed time and resources.

Despite the hurdles, Microsoft’s concessions allowed the deal with Activision Blizzard to close in October, following months of regulatory scrutiny globally. However, it’s worth noting that the Federal Trade Commission in the United States is still actively pursuing its case against Microsoft’s deal.

Source: The Verge