UK competition watchdog extends inquiry period for Xbox’s Activision deal
The CMA’s final report will now be published by late April instead of early March
The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has delayed plans to publish its final report on Xbox’s proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard by up to eight weeks.
The deadline for the publication of the report has been pushed back from March 1 to April 26, although the competition regulator said on Thursday that it “aims to complete the inquiry as soon as possible and in advance of this date”.
In September, the CMA said its investigation into the $68.7 billion merger had been expanded to a second inquiry phase due to a number of antitrust concerns.
Notably, the watchdog said it was worried about the impact the acquisition could have on PlayStation’s ability to compete, given that the deal would see Microsoft gain ownership of the Call of Duty series.
Explaining the decision to delay its final report, inquiry group chair Martin Coleman said the CMA “considers that there are special reasons why the report cannot be prepared and published within the original reference period”.
He added: “In taking this decision, the Inquiry Group had regard to the scope and complexity of the investigation and the need to consider a large volume of evidence as well as main party and third party submissions, the necessity to allow sufficient time to take full and proper account of comments that will be received in response to the Inquiry Group’s provisional findings in due course and to reach a fully reasoned final decision in the statutory timeframe.”
The CMA has spent the last few months gathering evidence, issuing questionnaires, and holding hearings with the relevant parties. It plans to notify them of its provisional findings and possible remedies to any competition concerns it may still hold in late January/early February.
The final deadline for all parties’ responses will be in March, ahead of the publication of the CMA’s final report. Ultimately, the watchdog has the authority to block mergers and acquisitions from being completed.
In December the US Federal Trade Commission announced plans to file a lawsuit in a bid to stop Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision, which it argues would enable the company to “suppress competitors” to its Xbox consoles and its subscription content and cloud gaming business.