UK regulator opens antitrust probe into Microsoft’s $16bn Nuance deal

Microsoft Nuance Image credit: Koshiro K / Shutterstock.com

The UK’s competition regulator has opened an investigation into Microsoft’s $16bn acquisition of speech recognition firm Nuance.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said it is launching the probe to establish if the deal will “result in a substantial lessening of competition within any market or markets in the UK for goods or services”.

The CMA has opened the Microsoft-Nuance antitrust probe under the Enterprise Act 2002.

It comes just three days after the European Commission gave “unconditional approval” to the deal, according to Reuters’ sources. It followed a period of outreach by the EU regulator to competitors, in which it asked for any competition concerns about the deal.

The acquisition has already been approved by regulators in the US and Australia.

According to the CMA’s website, the deadline for interested parties to comment is 10 January 2022. There is currently no timeline given for the Microsoft-Nuance investigation to be completed.

Microsoft and Nuance did not immediately reply to UKTN’s request for comment.

The deal was first announced in April this year and is set to bolster Microsoft’s voice recognition offering and give it greater access to the healthcare market.

Nuance’s Dragon software uses artificial intelligence to transcribe speech. It improves over time by learning the nuances in individuals’ voice patterns. The software is used across industries, from medical consultations to the board room.

Transcription software has become more popular among businesses with the rise of virtual meetings.

The deal is Microsoft’s second-biggest acquisition since it bought professional networking site LinkedIn in 2016 for $26.2bn.

The EU and regulators around the world have been increasing their scrutiny of so-called “killer acquisitions” designed to stifle competitors early on.

Last month the CMA blocked Facebook’s – now known as Meta – 2020 acquisition of GIF company Giphy. The move is the first time the regulator has reversed a Big Tech deal that has already gone through.