Microsoft could pull Activision Blizzard from the UK market

Microsoft president Brad Smith is reportedly meeting the UK Chancellor in June to discuss a number of topics.
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A new report from Bloomberg has alleged Microsoft is willing to pull Activision Blizzard from the United Kingdom as a means to circumvent the recent UK Competition and Markets Authority decision to block its proposed acquisition.

While this decision is currently being appealed, with an updated verdict set to be handed down in July 2023 after additional evidence is heard, Microsoft is reportedly preparing for a number of outcomes.

Per Bloomberg, Microsoft president Brad Smith is heading to the UK personally in June, with plans to meet with the UK Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, to discuss a potential solution to the CMA ruling.

While Smith is travelling specifically for a ‘scheduled talk’ about Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the need for strengthened regulation around this, he’ll also reportedly hold a number of other private discussions. A spokesperson for Microsoft told Bloomberg these planned discussions include the proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard, as the company remains ‘committed to finding creative and constructive ways to address remaining regulatory concerns.’

Read: Microsoft’s CMA appeal will take place in July 2023

Smith’s meeting with Hunt is particularly notable, as the Chancellor previously directed the CMA to ‘understand wider responsibilities‘ to the region’s economic growth, following its rejection of the buyout.

‘I think one of the reasons companies like Microsoft and Google want to invest in the UK is because we have independent regulators that are not controlled by politicians and therefore they can be confident there will be a level playing field,’ Hunt said in the wake of this decision. ‘I would not want to undermine that at all, but I do think it’s important all our regulators understand their wider responsibilities for economic growth.’

While Hunt does not have the power to change the CMA decision, as it’s an independently-run competition regulator, he does have some level of influence in his capacity as a government minister. It’s claimed Smith will meet with Hunt in the hopes of discussing requirements for the Activision Blizzard buyout to pass government scrutiny.

Bloomberg reports that Smith is planning to meet with legal representatives from Microsoft ahead of this meeting and the CMA appeal, in an effort to iron out solutions to counter the CMA’s decision, including the ‘extreme’ option of withdrawing Activision Blizzard from the UK market, and moving forward without the support of the region.

We’ll likely hear more about these plans and their viability in the coming months – potentially as early as July 2023, should the CMA appeal hearing run smoothly.

Leah J. Williams is a gaming and entertainment journalist who's spent years writing about the games industry, her love for The Sims 2 on Nintendo DS and every piece of weird history she knows. You can find her tweeting @legenette most days.