Satya Nadella breaks all sorts of records in Microsoft takeover of Activision Blizzard

Satya Nadella led Microsoft acquisition of Activision Blizzard is breaking all sorts of records, even for a company that hasn’t shied away from massive deals in recent years.

| Updated on: Aug 21 2022, 23:33 IST
Satya Nadella
Satya Nadella buying Activision Blizzard will eat away at a big chunk of Microsoft’s cash pile. (MINT_PRINT)
Satya Nadella
Satya Nadella buying Activision Blizzard will eat away at a big chunk of Microsoft’s cash pile. (MINT_PRINT)

Satya Nadella led Microsoft Corp.'s planned acquisition of Activision Blizzard Inc. is breaking all sorts of records, even for a company that hasn't shied away from massive deals in recent years.  The U.S. tech giant announced on Tuesday it's paying nearly $69 billion to take over Activision, owner of the Call of Duty franchise. That's roughly equal to the amount Microsoft set aside for its five largest past acquisitions combined, including the $26 billion LinkedIn Corp. deal in 2016. 

Last year, Microsoft also offered $19.6 billion to buy speech technology company Nuance Communications Inc., following a $7.5 billion deal for video-game maker Zenimax Media Inc. Previous large deals include the $8.5 billion acquisition of Skype Inc. in 2011, as well as the $7.5 billion purchase of GitHub Inc. in 2018. 

Buying Activision will eat away at a big chunk of Microsoft's cash pile, which stood at $131 billion at the end of September, though its outlay represents but a sliver of its current $2.3 trillion market value. Few companies have the balance sheet to pull off such a deal. 

Microsoft's acquisition of Activision to face antitrust test

(AFP) Microsoft's $69 billion deal to buy video game powerhouse Activision Blizzard is expected to win out with regulators despite vows in Europe and the United States to rein in tech titans.

Analysts interviewed by AFP after the merger plan was announced on Tuesday said the deal would certainly be scrutinized, but likely less intensely than would an acquisition by Amazon, Google, or Facebook-parent Meta.

"From a regulatory perspective, Microsoft is not under the same level of scrutiny as other tech stalwarts," said Wedbush analyst Dan Ives.

Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella "saw a window to make a major bet on consumer while others are caught in the regulatory spotlight and could not go after an asset like this," Ives added.

The analyst noted that there are bound to be some "speed bumps navigating both the Beltway and Brussels" given the epic size of the deal.

Microsoft catapulted itself into the big league in one of the world's most lucrative markets by announcing the deal to take over Activision-Blizzard -- the biggest acquisition in the video game sector's history.

The deal will bring some of the world's most famous games into Microsoft's possession, including "Call of Duty", "Candy Crush" and "Warcraft", and make it the third-largest gaming company in the world, behind only Sony and Tencent.

Not leaping into the top spot in the market should be in Microsoft's favor when it comes to regulators worried about the potential for monopoly power.

There are concerns, however, that Microsoft might make future Activision titles exclusive to its Xbox consoles and Windows-powered computers, shutting out rival PlayStation hardware made by Japan-based Sony.

Activision has long made blockbuster games such as "Call of Duty" for both consoles.

"While some have argued that this would be against its own interests and curtail its revenue stream, this wouldn't be unusual given how Microsoft has got itself into trouble by bundling hardware and software previously," said CMC Markets chief market analyst Michael Hewson.

- US vs China? -

Regulators might even see value in Microsoft challenging video game industry heavyweight Tencent, which is based in China, analysts contended.

"While the acquisition is big, Microsoft does not become the largest gaming company so it is hard to talk about monopolistic behavior," Creative Strategies principal analyst Carolina Milanesi said of how regulators could view the merger.

"There might be also a US vs. China play here in favor of Microsoft considering how big Tencent is."

Microsoft merging game, cloud computing, and software as part of a push in the metaverse would also make it a rival to Meta, which renamed the company from Facebook in tribute to such immersive, virtual worlds being the future.

"Microsoft is formidable competition for Meta, Epic Games, Tencent, and Roblox, all of which are scrambling for dominance in this emerging theme," said GlobalData principal analyst Rupantar Guha.

"While the metaverse is still largely conceptual, Microsoft's strength in underlying themes such as artificial intelligence, augmented reality, virtual reality, and cloud computing give it a leadership position in this theme."

Niko Partners senior analyst Daniel Ahmad was among those confident that the video game industry will continue to consolidate after a record year of take-over deals in 2021.

"One has to wonder what Tencent might do next," Ahmad said.

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First Published Date: 19 Jan, 13:27 IST