UK competition watchdog closes the comment book on Microsoft's Nuance merger

European Commission gives an unconditional green light, but Blighty needs a bit more time

If you wanted to speak your brains have your say on Microsoft's acquisition of Nuance, the moment has passed. In the UK at any rate.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has announced an inquiry into the merger. The current statutory deadline for a decision following Phase 1 is 9 March, at which point the CMA might go deeper. Or it might decide earlier to let the acquisition proceed.

The CMA is pondering whether Microsoft snapping up Nuance would lessen competition for goods and services within the UK. Its invitation for comment kicked off on 13 December last year and closed this week. The launch of the merger inquiry is the next step in the process.

Such investigations can lead to lengthy delays in transactions. Microsoft announced plans to buy Nuance in an all-cash transaction valued at $19.7bn in April 2021. The European Commission (EC) gave it the nod on 21 December 2021, stating that "the transaction would raise no competition concerns in the European Economic Area." US authorities were similarly content.

Microsoft wants to bolster its presence in healthcare with Nuance's speech recognition technology streamlining the production of clinical documentation. In its investigation, the EC found that competing transcription service providers don't depend on Microsoft's cloud (or weren't considered particularly big users of cloud computing services). More importantly, it also reckoned that the combined company "would not have the ability and/or incentive to foreclose its competitors in the markets for (healthcare) transcription software."

In addition, the EC found that Windows was the only PC operating system on which Nuance's transcription software was available. The company tipped Mac users of its Dragon Professional transcription software off a cliff in 2018 with the yanking of support.

Microsoft may only has a few weeks to wait before discovering if the UK will follow suit. ®

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