Microsoft boss meets chancellor over blocked merger with Activision Blizzard

The president of Microsoft has met with the chancellor amid efforts to overturn the competition watchdog’s decision to block its planned takeover of Activision Blizzard.

Brad Smith said in a meeting with Jeremy Hunt that he would try to work with regulators to win approval for the technology giant’s $69bn (£56bn) purchase of the Call of Duty creator, a government source told the Reuters news agency.

In April, British competition authorities blocked the takeover, which would have been the biggest merger the gaming industry has seen, over concerns it would harm competition in the cloud gaming sector. Microsoft has since appealed against the decision.

Smith, who has served as president of the Washington-based corporation since 2015, said at the time that the verdict would discourage investment and innovation in technology in the UK.

He told a conference hosted by techUK, the trade association, in London on Tuesday that he hoped the outcome would change.

“I’m in search of solutions,” Smith said, adding: “If regulators have concerns we want to address them. If there are problems, we want to solve them. If the UK wants to impose regulatory requirements that go beyond those in the EU, we want to find ways to fulfil them.”

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The European Union approved the Activision deal in May after accepting the remedies proposed by Microsoft.

The company has also lodged an appeal against the US Federal Trade Commission’s action seeking to block the deal after the agency warned that the merger would suppress competition in the industry.

Sarah Cardell, chief executive of the UK Competition and Markets Authority, stood by the regulator’s decision after the merger won EU approval.

“The UK, US and European competition authorities are unanimous that this merger would harm competition in cloud gaming,” she said, adding that Microsoft’s proposals “would allow Microsoft to set the terms and conditions for this market for the next ten years”.

The appeal in Britain will be heard next month, with a verdict expected in August or September.

Microsoft was approached for comment and the Treasury declined to release a public statement.

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