Competition watchdog warns against turning ‘blind eye’ to anti-competitive deals

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It is not worth turning a “blind eye” to anti-competitive business takeovers in order to boost the UK’s reputation as a place to do business, the chair of the competition watchdog has said.

His comments come after the body’s decision to block Microsoft’s 69 billion US dollar (£55 billion) takeover of games company Activision Blizzard, a deal which the European Union approved earlier this week.

Following the decision, Microsoft said the EU was clearly a “more attractive place to start a business”.

“We are vigilant, as it is our duty to be vigilant, about investments that consolidate and entrench market power,” he told MPs on the Business and Trade Committee.

“I think I would challenge the premise that if there is an impact on international confidence in doing business in the UK, that the best way that that confidence is served is by turning a blind eye to anti-competitive mergers.”

Sarah Cardell, the watchdog’s chief executive, told MPs that the body looked at specific deals on a case-by-case basis but “absolutely” considered the attractiveness of the UK when setting its strategy.

“Individual cases need to be decided on their merits,” she said.

“I believe that strong competition is a very positive signal for the UK’s reputation externally.”

Asked about how much the CMA had liaised with the the US authorities over the Activision Blizzard takeover, Ms Cardell said that an independent panel at the authority took decisions on their own.

“The CMA will take its decisions based on our assessment on a merger,” she said.

“We are absolutely not, and I would clarify this because I think there’s been some speculation on this, for example, in the press – we are absolutely not doing the bidding of other agencies.

“We undertake our own analysis and, as I mentioned before, we have our independent panel groups who are responsible for those decisions and take those responsibilities incredibly seriously.”

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