Thursday, February 2, 2023

Australian antitrust authority ACCC publicly states it's 'engaging with overseas regulators' on Microsoft-ActivisionBlizzard while its own investigation remains on hold

News from Down Under:

For the first time in almost five months, the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) has updated the public webpage dedicated to its review of Microsoft's acquisition of Activision Blizzard King (NASDAQ:ATVI). There were only three entries before, which I'll summarize as follows:

  • June 20, 2022: start of informal review

  • July 11, 2022: closing date for submissions

  • September 8, 2022: timeline suspended (in EU antitrust jargon that would be called a "stop the clock")

Now the ACCC has added the following line (click on the image to enlarge or read the text below the image):

02/02/2023   ACCC engaging with overseas regulators. Timeline remains suspended

They're being very forthright. Everyone knows that competition authorities talk a lot to each other when they have similar matters before them, but many antitrust agencies wouldn't inform the public of the fact--not because it's unlawful or anything, but because it could be considered to call into question the independence of their decision-making processes.

Looking at what other jurisdictions have been doing so far with respect to Microsoft-ActivisionBlizzard, there are only two I can really commend at this juncture: Chile, where a survey showed what Call of Duty gamers' priorities are (they're loyal to Sony's PlayStation), and Brazil's CADE, which properly distinguished a competitor's misgivings from what would be harm to the competitive process.

I don't know what the European Commission's Statement of Objections (SO) says, but I can't imagine they've come up with any theory of harm we haven't all heard about before, none of which makes sense. I commented on the fact of the EU SO having issued when MLex (no reason not to trust them) reported. As I mentioned yesterday, Politico has also reported on the SO. And the latest source is Bloomberg:

The most interesting one of the many recent developments in this context is, however, that Sony doesn't want to provide documents that the FTC has requested. Sony should do almost literally anything for the FTC. It is indebted to the FTC. And it has a legal duty to cooperate with a discovery request--an obligation that would exist even if Sony had not instigated it all in the first place. On Twitter I put it like this:

First they ask the @FTC to bring a #merger lawsuit. Then they don't want to answer questions.