The European Commission will soon hold a closed hearing on Microsoft’s bid to acquire Activision Blizzard. The company will try to convince the EU regulator to approve the deal, with some of its rivals also likely to participate.
Microsoft confirmed to Retuers that it has asked the European Commission for a special oral hearing that will be held in Brussels on February 21.
The company will try to defend its acquisition of Activision Blizzard in front of EU and national antitrust officials. Remedies are expected to be offered after the closed hearing.
According to Foss Patents, Sony and even Google or Nvidia may also participate, but they will first need to obtain permission from the European Commission. The blog’s author Florian Mueller explained how such hearings are usually go: “The case team presents its theories of harm, the parties get to respond, and third parties can intervene (as Sony undoubtedly will) to urge the Commission to block the deal or insist on drastic remedies.”
This comes weeks after the European Commission sent Microsoft a statement of objections. In this antitrust warning, regulators detailed their concerns over the $68.7 billion deal.
As Mueller explained in a blog post, the Commission’s Directorate General for Competition (DG COMP) needs this statment of objections to show big tech companies that the days of easy M&A deals are over, as well as to demonstrate that “it is not ‘softer’ than the [US Federal Trade Commission] and [Department of Justice].”
In November 2022, the European Commission opened an in-depth investigation into the acquisition. Among its biggest concerns, the regulator cited a potential harm to competition in the games market, as well as chances that Microsoft would make Activision Blizzard games like Call of Duty exclusive to Xbox and Windows.
The $68.7 billion deal is also under scrutiny in the US and UK. The FTC has even sued Microsoft to block the merger, saying that this acquisition would give the company all means and motives to “manipulate pricing, degrade game quality and player experience on rival consoles.”
The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority recently proposed a few remedies for Microsoft, including buying only a part of Activision Blizzard (e.g. without Call of Duty or without Blizzard). The regulator is expected to issue its final ruling by April 26.