The UK’s Competition and Market Authority (CMA) is extending the deadline for its review of the Microsoft-Activion $69bn merger, in the latest twist of a complex regulatory saga. The cut off date has been moved from July 18 to August 29.
“The Inquiry Group has decided to extend [the period] by six weeks… as it considers that there are special reasons to do so,” the watchdog announced on Friday.
In April, the CMA had initially blocked the takeover, concluding that the purchase would give Microsoft an unfair edge in the country’s nascent cloud gaming market. In May, the US tech giant decided to appeal the decision.
The EU’s later approval of the deal didn’t seem to shake the UK authority. But this week, after a US court ruled against the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) bid to block the merger, the CMA softened its stance. (For context, Microsoft needs approval from the entire UK-US-EU trio to complete the purchase.)
“Microsoft and Activision have indicated that they are considering how the transaction might be modified, and the CMA is prepared to engage with them on this basis,” CMA media officer Billy Proudlock told the Verge. He added that they may choose to “restructure a deal,” which could in turn result in a “new merger investigation.”
For its part, Microsoft has agreed to pause the court appeal. Reportedly, Activision and Microsoft are also considering ceding some control of their cloud gaming business, according to people familiar with the matter who spoke anonymously to Bloomberg.
This could include selling cloud-gaming rights to UK companies in the telecoms, gaming and internet-based computing, or even to private equity firms.
But although things seem to be turning for Microsoft, its battle to strike the largest ever deal in the video-game industry is far from over. It’s still uncertain whether its negotiations with the CMA will bear fruit, and the FTC is appealing the court’s ruling in favour of the merger.