The British Antitrust Authority plans to review merger control procedures. It included better interaction with the companies involved and the ability to decide on corrective actions earlier, she said on Monday after coming under criticism over the deal between Microsoft and Activision Blizzard.
With Britain’s exit from the European Union in 2020, the Competition and Markets Authority will move to the forefront of global regulatory bodies, giving it a greater role in mega mergers such as Microsoft’s acquisition of Call of Duty maker Activision for $69 billion.
The UK regulator blocked the deal, much to the annoyance of the two US companies, but then tore up its rulebook to reopen and then approved the case (link) after Microsoft came back with the changes.
Microsoft and Activision were surprised by the CMA’s ban, saying the regulator’s objections were not entirely clear in their interactions.
Chairman of the Capital Markets Authority Committee, Martin Coleman, said that under the proposals, the merging parties will have the opportunity to comment after reviewing the full version of the case in an interim report.
“The hearing will give group members the opportunity to question the merger partners as before, but it will also give the parties more time to make their statements and take a more rhetorical approach,” he said.
“Throughout the process, merger partners will be free to discuss solutions with the group at an early stage if they wish
Britain reviews mergers and acquisitions in two stages: a first stage to determine whether the agreement could restrict competition, and a longer second stage to consider possible remedies, including an outright ban or divestment.
CMA chair Sarah Cardell, who was appointed permanent head of the regulator almost a year ago, said there were notable barriers to using the options currently available to merging parties to find solutions.
“We have introduced a revised processing process to address these hurdles. We have submitted a series of applications for the merging companies for consideration in an impartial manner,” she said.
The agency continues to prioritize structural solutions, she said, adding that changes will only be successful if the merging parties act in good faith.
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