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Adobe's $20b buy of Figma in crosshairs of Europe's antitrust cops

If you could come this way and answer a few questions, say 16 countries

Adobe's proposed $20 billion buy of web-first collaboration design startup Figma has hit a potential stumbling block, after the European Commission confirmed members states raised worries about competition.

Sixteen nations including France, Germany and Italy requested the EC investigate the implications of the agreement under local merger regulation, possibly adding more months before the deal is consummated.

In a statement, the EC says the "transaction threatens to significantly affect competition in the market for interactive product design and whiteboarding software."

"The Commission will now asks Adobe to notify the transaction," the EC statement continues. "The Commission also concluded that it is best placed to examine the potential cross-border effects of the transaction."

The eye-waveringly expensive bid by Adobe was made public in September and upset the applecart for many creative types that are concerned Adobe will merge its new toy with its XD software and raise prices.

Confirmation of the EC investigations comes months after the US Department of Justice made a second request for information about the sale, something that Adobe told the SEC about in November. The UK competition authorities are also running a probe.

Should the DoJ and the Federal Trade Commission take exception to the responses they receive, they are entitled to demand recourse under antitrust laws that could involved denying the sale, or demanding Adobe divests or licenses assets of the two companies.

If cleared, this would be among the biggest takeovers of a private owned software company.

Figma, which has an estimated four million users, is a browser-based app that manages file organization by listing projects and their files in a dedicated format. It requires no installation, patching or updates.

The vector-based graphic editor and prototyping tool maker was founded in 2016 and has ingested a little more than $330 million in funding since then.

Some Figma users are fearful Adobe will merge Figma with its XD software – which has a little under 1,000 paying customers – and then hike subscription costs. Figma itself has around one million paying customers. Others are drawn to its freemium model and its comparatively lightweight interface.

Dylan Field, Figma co-founder, says users have nothing to fear about price hikes, and says the app will remain free for education users. ®

If the sale is cancelled, Figma is due a termination fee of $1 billion under certain conditions. ®

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