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UK Regulator Seeks Public Input on Microsoft-Activision Deal

LONDON, July 31 (Reuters) - Britain's antitrust regulator on Monday called for public responses on whether Microsoft's $69 billion takeover of Activision Blizzard, maker of video game "Call of Duty", should be cleared ahead of a final decision by Aug. 29.

Microsoft says the deal, which the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) blocked in April, should be revisited given legally-binding commitments to the European Commission and a licensing deal with Sony.

The U.S. software giant said, in arguments published on Monday, that its agreements with NVIDIA, Boosteroid and Ubitus to licence Activision games for a decade after the merger had already improved competition in the cloud gaming market.

The CMA said Microsoft believed there were material changes of circumstance and/or special reasons why the regulator should not impose its final order to prohibit the deal.

"Submissions of this nature are possible but are very rare," a CMA spokesperson said.

"We will consider Microsoft's submissions carefully, along with other responses from interested parties, ahead of the 29 August statutory deadline."

Microsoft also said any breach of its commitments would mean European approval would no longer be valid and put it at risk of fines of up to 10% of its worldwide turnover, which would amount to $19.8 billion if based on its 2022 turnover.

Its deal with Sony to keep "Call of Duty" on its PlayStation console for a decade was also significant in terms of the impact of the Activision deal and "addresses the primary concern of the most outspoken opponent of the merger," Microsoft said.

The CMA called for anyone wishing to comment on the new version of Microsoft's takeover to do so by Aug. 4. It said it was aiming to make a final decision on the deal by Aug. 29.

The public consultation raises the chance that the biggest gaming deal in history could go ahead, with the deadline for completion having been extended by the parties to Oct. 18.

The Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) in London, which was set to examine the CMA's decision to block the deal, has already published Microsoft's argument that the binding commitments accepted by the European Commission shortly after Britain blocked the deal had changed the situation.

Microsoft's appeal at the CAT was put on hold earlier this month to give the parties more time to resolve the dispute.

The CMA was left increasingly isolated in its opposition after the U.S. Federal Trade Commission struggled in its attempts to block the deal.

Microsoft said in its arguments published on Monday that evidence that emerged in the U.S. bolstered its case on market definition in relation to cloud gaming.

Reporting by Sarah Young, Sam Tobin and Paul Sandle; Editing by Kate Holton, Barbara Lewis, Christina Fincher and Sharon Singleton

Source: Reuters

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