Microsoft £55bn takeover of Call of Duty maker Activision blocked by UK watchdog

​Microsoft's $68.7 billion (£55bn) takeover of gaming firm Activision Blizzard has been blocked by the UK competition watchdog, in a potentially fatal blow to one of the technology industry's biggest ever deals.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said it had prevented the mammoth buyout over concerns in the cloud gaming sector.

Xbox owner Microsoft struck a deal to buy the maker of Candy Crush and Call Of Duty in January last year. Microsoft and Activision have both said they will appeal the decision.

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Activision, which also makes the Crash Bandicoot and Spyro games, said it would "reassess our growth plans for the UK" as a result.

The Microsoft Corporation logo. Picture: AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, FileThe Microsoft Corporation logo. Picture: AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File
The Microsoft Corporation logo. Picture: AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File

Microsoft meanwhile warned the move "discourages technology innovation and investment in the UK".

The CMA argued the groups failed to address its worries over protecting innovation in the fast-growing cloud gaming market.

The watchdog said the move would make Microsoft stronger in cloud gaming – where video games are played using remote servers and have no need for downloads – "stifling competition in this growing market".

It claimed Microsoft already accounts for between 60 per cent and 70 per cent of cloud gaming services.

Microsoft submitted a proposal in an effort to address concerns, but the regulator said this contained a "number of significant shortcomings".

Martin Coleman, chair of the independent panel of experts conducting the CMA investigation, said: "Microsoft already enjoys a powerful position and head start over other competitors in cloud gaming and this deal would strengthen that advantage, giving it the ability to undermine new and innovative competitors.

"Microsoft engaged constructively with us to try to address these issues and we are grateful for that, but their proposals were not effective to remedy our concerns and would have replaced competition with ineffective regulation in a new and dynamic market."

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Brad Smith, vice-chair and president of Microsoft, said: "We remain fully committed to this acquisition and will appeal.

"The CMA's decision rejects a pragmatic path to address competition concerns and discourages technology innovation and investment in the United Kingdom."

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