Britain’s competition watchdog has launched an investigation into Microsoft Corp’s $16bn acquisition of artificial intelligence and speech technology firm Nuance Communications on antitrust concerns.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) this morning said it was launching the probe to establish whether the deal would “result in a substantial lessening of competition within any market or markets in the UK for goods or services”.
It comes eight months after Microsoft announced it would buy Massachusetts-based Nuance, in a move aimed at bolstering its healthcare offering via the company’s cloud services to optimise clinical administrative work for doctors.
The deal had already been given regulatory approval in the US and Australia. Just three days ago, Reuters reported sources familiar with the transaction who said it had also been given “unconditional approval” by the European Commission.
According to the CMA statement, the deadline for interested parties to comment is 10 January 2022, but the regulator gave no timeline for the completion of its investigation into the Microsoft-Nuance deal.
It will come as a significant setback for the deal, which had been expected to close this year. If it goes ahead, it will be Microsoft’s second-biggest acquisition after its $26.2bn purchase of LinkedIn in 2016.
The merger plans built on a partnership inked between the two companies in 2019 to combine the health firm’s technology with Microsoft’s cloud services.
It also marks increased demand for health tech services after the Covid-19 pandemic sparked a shift to virtual medical consultations.
Microsoft has been ramping up its cloud offerings for specific industries, including the launch of Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare last year.
Beyond healthcare, Nuance also helped to develop Apple’s Siri voice assistant and makes software for a range of other sectors including the automotive industry.