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11/20/2023 at 6:02 pm – UK proposes to change competition assessment after Microsoft-Activivision affair.

11/20/2023 at 6:02 pm – UK proposes to change competition assessment after Microsoft-Activivision affair.

(Correcting video game title “Call of Duty” in para 2) Paul Sandle

Britain’s competition regulator plans to change its merger assessment system, including improving communication with the parties and allowing remedial action to be taken sooner, it said on Monday after facing criticism over the issue of the Microsoft-Activision Blizzard deal.

The Competition and Markets Commission rose to the forefront of global regulators when Britain left the European Union in 2020, giving it more leverage in megamergers such as Microsoft’s $69 billion purchase of “Call of Duty” maker Activision.

It blocked the move to the ire of the two US companies, but Microsoft tore up its own terms to reopen the deal after proposed changes.

Microsoft and Activision were surprised by the CMA’s ban, saying the regulator’s objections were not entirely clear in its communications.

CMA Group chairman Martin Coleman said under the proposals, parties would have the opportunity to submit the full story after hearing in an interim report.

“The Inquiry will give panel members the opportunity to question the merger partners, as is the case now, but it will also allow parties more time to make their submissions and take a more deliberative approach.” , he declared.

“Throughout the process, merging parties can, if they wish, discuss appropriate actions with the panel at an early stage.

The UK reviews mergers and acquisitions in two stages: a first stage to decide whether a deal could reduce competition, and a second, longer stage to examine possible remedies, including outright restraint or divestment.

The CMA’s chief executive, Sarah Cordell, who was appointed permanent head of the regulator almost a year ago, said there were barriers to taking advantage of the opportunities currently available to parties to a merger to find solutions.

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“We have included a streamlined appeals procedure aimed at removing these barriers. We have introduced a number of concessions that merging parties can consider without prejudice,” he said.

He said the agency’s preference for structural solutions remains, and changes will only be successful if merging parties engage in good faith.