The European Commission (EC) has approved the acquisition of Microsoft (MSFT) from Activision Blizzard (ATVI) on Monday, paving the way for the biggest consumer technology acquisition in two decades.
Regulators of the EU gave the go-ahead to the $69 billion deal, which Britain's competition watchdog blocked three weeks ago after a thorough investigation found that Microsoft's takeover of the video game maker would not hurt rival game console companies and multi-game subscription services. However, this opened up the possibility that Microsoft could hurt competition in the cloud streaming and PC operating systems market.
To address these concerns, Microsoft will have to offer certain concessions for 10 years. These include a free license for consumers in the European Economic Area (EEA) that would allow them to stream all current and future Activision Blizzard PC and console games, and a corresponding free license for streaming providers to allow players to access streaming content.
The EC decision d& #39;approving the deal sets up the biggest consumer technology acquisition since AOL bought Time Warner in 2000. The deal, which Microsoft first announced in January from last year, encountered regulatory hurdles in the US and UK.
UK regulators have opposed the agreement on the grounds that it would stifle competition and reduce consumer choice. This view was seen as a victory for proponents of tighter regulation of big tech companies and enforcement of antitrust laws.
Microsoft has faced similar hurdles to United States, including a lawsuit filed by Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chairman Lina Khan seeking to block the deal. The case is still pending and the next hearing is scheduled for August 2.
The more dovish stance of EU regulators is a rare occurrence, as they have historically taken a tougher stance on antitrust concerns than their US and UK counterparts. For years, European antitrust regulators led by Margrethe Vestager have aggressively sued big tech companies such as Google (GOOGL), Apple (AAPL) and Amazon (AMZN), issuing fines and ordering changes to business practices.
Microsoft shares held steady as of 11:30 a.m. EST Monday and are up 29% so far this year. Activision Blizzard shares have gained nearly 1% and are up about 2% year-to-date.