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Microsoft gives ground on streaming in bid to remove UK block on Activision deal

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Microsoft gives ground on streaming in bid to remove UK block on Activision deal


London
News Portal Space
 — 

Microsoft has made a major concession to UK authorities in a bid to remove the last remaining regulatory obstacle to its huge takeover of Activision Blizzard.

The companies have submitted a new proposal to the UK antitrust watchdog — the only regulator worldwide standing in the way of the $69 billion deal — that would see Activision’s (ATVI) cloud streaming rights outside the European Union and three other European countries sold to a rival, Ubisoft Entertainment. Microsoft President Brad Smith said in a blog post Tuesday that the companies believe the new proposal “presents a substantially different transaction” for the CMA to consider than its previous merger agreement.

“We believe that this development is positive for players, the progression of the cloud game streaming market, and for the growth of our industry,” Smith said.

The restructured deal, announced by the UK Competition and Markets Authority Tuesday, follows a decision by the CMA to block the acquisition on its original terms. That move put it at odds with EU regulators, which approved the plan in May. A US federal court also said in July that it would not block the deal from closing.

CMA chief executive Sarah Cardell said the regulator would now consider the new proposal.

“Our goal has not changed — any future decision on this new deal will ensure that the growing cloud gaming market continues to benefit from open and effective competition driving innovation and choice.”

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Under the restructured deal, Ubisoft — a French video game developer — will be able to license out Activision’s content to any cloud gaming provider outside the European Economic Area, including in the United Kingdom. Shares in Ubisoft jumped 7% in Paris Tuesday.

“This will allow gamers to access Activision’s games in different ways, including through cloud-based multigame subscription services,” Cardell said.

Microsoft and Activision agreed last month to extend their merger deadline by three months to October 18, to allow more time to come to an agreement with the CMA. October 18 is now also the statutory deadline for a CMA decision on the new merger proposal, and Microsoft said it expects the agency’s review process to be completed ahead of that date.

Microsoft (MSFT) announced the planned acquisition of Activision early last year. The transaction was valued at $69 billion at the time, making it one of the tech industry’s largest deals.

Activision Blizzard is one of the world’s biggest video game developers, producing games such as “Candy Crush,” “Call of Duty,” “World of Warcraft” and “Overwatch.”

–News Portal Space’s Clare Duffy contributed to this report.

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