June 6, 2023

LONDON (Reuters) – The UK’s antitrust regulator boss said blocking Microsoft’s acquisition of ‘Call of Duty’ maker Activision Blizzard was the right decision for the UK after both companies said it was sending the wrong message to the global technology industry.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) blocked the deal on Wednesday, saying it could hit competition in the burgeoning cloud gaming market.

Microsoft president Brad Smith said the decision had “shaken confidence in the UK technology industry” and was “probably the darkest day in our four decades in Britain”.

“If the UK government is to bring in investment, if it is to create jobs (…) it needs to look closely at the role of the CMA, the regulatory structure in the UK, this transaction and the message that the UK just said to the world,” he told BBC radio.

“There is a clear message here: the European Union is a more attractive place to start a business than the UK,” he added.

But CMA chief executive Sarah Cardell said the role of the regulator was to ensure Britain was a competitive environment for businesses to grow and prosper.

“That’s important for British consumers and British businesses and it’s those British consumers and British businesses that the CMA must protect,” she told BBC radio.

Asked whether the British government could lift the blockade if it felt it would harm the country, she said the CMA acted independently and was responsible for its decision.

“The decision the CMA is making is an independent decision we made by looking at an overall assessment of the competitive impact of the deal, and we believe it is the right decision for the UK,” she said.

She said Britain had not acted alone and noted that the US Federal Trade Commission also filed a lawsuit to block the deal.

(Reporting by Muvija M and Paul Sandle; editing by Sarah Young and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)