Posts with «mergers» label

Meta sells Giphy to Shutterstock at a loss following UK order

The UK ordered Meta to sell Giphy at the end of 2021, and now the social media heavyweight is following through. Stock photo provider Shutterstock has reached a deal to buy Giphy from Meta for $53 million. Notably, this won't break compatibility — Meta is entering a programming interface agreement that ensures Giphy's GIFs work properly across services like Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp.

The sale is expected to close in June. Shutterstock says the purchase will boost its stake in "casual conversations" by adding GIFs and stickers to its catalog, not to mention Giphy partners like Microsoft, TikTok and Twitter. The buyout will also help foster Shutterstock's generative AI strategy, particularly in mobile, and should help the company reach more advertisers.

Meta (then Facebook) bought Giphy in 2020 to fold its GIF library into platforms like Instagram. The deal was reportedly worth $400 million. The UK's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) soon launched an investigation to determine if the acquisition would hurt competition, though, and fined Meta $69.6 million for continuing with merger plans without the regulator's approval. A year later, the CMA told Meta to sell Giphy after finding that the takeover would unfairly cement Meta's market dominance.

We've asked Meta for comment. The firm fought the CMA, arguing that Giphy neither operated in the UK nor counted as display advertising that justified a split. Meta also contended that Giphy and users alike were better off with its resources at their disposal.

The swap shouldn't change things much if you use Meta's social networks. This may affect Shutterstock's customers, though. Chief executive Paul Hennessy hopes Giphy will help commercialize Shutterstock's GIF collection — don't be surprised if animated images play a prominent role in Shutterstock's offerings.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

FTC drops bid to block Meta's acquisition of Within

The Federal Trade Commission has given up on trying to stop Meta from purchasing VR company Within. According to Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal, the agency has voted to drop its administrative case against the company a few weeks after a federal court denied its request for a preliminary injunction to block the acquisition. 

The FTC originally filed antitrust lawsuits in federal court and its in-house court last year in an effort to prevent Meta from snapping up the company that developed the virtual reality workout app Supernatural. At the time, the commission accused Meta of "trying to buy its way to the top... instead of earning it on the merits." It said the company had the resources to enter "the VR fitness market by building its own app" and doing so would increase consumer choice and innovation. By buying Within, the FTC alleged Meta would stifle "future innovation and competitive rivalry."

US District Judge Edward Davila, who oversaw the federal case, ruled in favor of Meta. While he reportedly agreed that mergers that could potentially harm competition in the future should be blocked, he decided that the FTC failed to offer sufficient evidence showing how the Within acquisition would be detrimental to the market. He also said that while Meta has vast resources, it "did not have the available feasible means to enter the relevant market other than by acquisition."

Technically, Davila's ruling didn't have a direct effect on the administrative case. As The Journal notes, though, antitrust officials have previously dropped administrative lawsuits if the federal court denies an injunction. Now Meta can rest assured that when it completed its acquisition of Within on February 8th, the deal was truly final. 

"We’re excited that the Within team has joined Meta, and we’re eager to partner with this talented group in bringing the future of VR fitness to life,” a Meta spokesperson told Engadget.  

The FTC's withdrawal represents one of its most pertinent losses under the leadership of Lina Khan, who's known to be a prominent critic of Big Tech and a leading antitrust scholar. In December, the agency took on an even bigger challenge than this one when it filed an antitrust complaint to block Microsoft's planned $68.7 billion takeover of Activision Blizzard. "Microsoft would have both the means and motive to harm competition by manipulating Activision’s pricing, degrading Activision’s game quality or player experience on rival consoles and gaming services, changing the terms and timing of access to Activision’s content, or withholding content from competitors entirely, resulting in harm to consumers," the FTC said.

Amazon officially becomes a health care provider after closing purchase of One Medical

Amazon's months-long effort to acquire One Medical is finished — for now, at least. The company has officially completed its $3.9 billion purchase, giving it a primary healthcare provider with in-person and virtual treatment as well as lab tests. The successful buyout isn't leading to any immediate changes in One Medical's services beyond a temporary $55 discount on a one-year membership (now $144), but Amazon said last July that it planned a "reinvention" of healthcare with the takeover.

The completion comes just a day after the Federal Trade Commission said it wouldn't contest the buyout. However, the regulator also says it's still investigating the deal to explore potential anti-competitive effects and privacy concerns raised by Amazon's access to health data. An FTC official toldCNN the agency will warn Amazon it's closing the purchase at its own risk, and might still face a government challenge later.

Amazon has spent years making deeper forays into healthcare. It bought PillPack in 2018 and used the provider to launch an in-house pharmacy service. The online shopping heavyweight also introduced an app-based health service for employees in 2019 that it later offered to other companies. In 2021, the company introduced a custom Alexa for healthcare. The One Medical move theoretically completes the picture by letting Amazon handle everything from minor doctor's appointments through to prescriptions.

Whether or not Amazon could endure an FTC challenge isn't clear. Commission chair Lina Khan is known to be wary of Big Tech, and her stance even prompted Amazon to ask for her recusal from antitrust cases. There's no certainty the FTC might succeed, though, and it recently lost an effort to block Meta's purchase of Within. One Medical is considerably larger than Within, though, and its healthcare focus brings up privacy concerns that aren't always present in tech acquisitions.

Microsoft is putting Xbox games on GeForce Now in an attempt to win over regulators

Microsoft has struck a 10-year deal with NVIDIA to bring Xbox games to the GeForce Now streaming service. The company's president, Brad Smith, made the announcement at a press conference in Brussels, where he, Sony Interactive Entertainment CEO Jim Ryan, Activision Blizzard head Bobby Kotick and other prominent figures attended a European Commission hearing over Microsoft's proposed takeover of Activision Blizzard.

Smith said that, if the deal goes through, Activision Blizzard games like the Call of Duty series will be available on GeForce Now as well. The publisher removed its titles from the cloud gaming service in 2020. Smith's GeForce Now announcement came hours after he confirmed that Microsoft will bring Xbox games to Nintendo platforms under a binding 10-year deal — and Activision Blizzard titles if the acquisition closes. NVIDIA is now supporting the Activision Blizzard deal, Smith said.

“Xbox remains committed to giving people more choice and finding ways to expand how people play,” Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer said in a statement. “This partnership will help grow NVIDIA’s catalog of titles to include games like Call of Duty, while giving developers more ways to offer streaming games. We are excited to offer gamers more ways to play the games they love.”

Users will need to buy copies of games from the Xbox PC, Steam or Epic Games stores to play them on GeForce Now. It's not clear when Xbox games will be available to stream through the service, which has more than more than 25 million users. However, NVIDIA said it and Microsoft "will begin work immediately to integrate Xbox PC games into GeForce Now."

The agreement will afford players another way to stream Microsoft's games from the cloud almost anywhere that they have a sturdy enough internet connection. Currently, Xbox Cloud Gaming (which requires a Game Pass Ultimate subscription) is the main way to do that. The NVIDIA deal is an attempt by Microsoft to placate regulators' concerns over the Activision takeover by showing that Xbox Cloud Gaming won't be the only exclusive way to stream its games.

Earlier this month, the UK's competition regulator said that the proposed $68.7 billion Activision acquisition could result in a "substantial lessening of competition in gaming consoles" and "harm UK gamers." The Competition and Markets Authority found that Microsoft already had a 60-70 percent share of the cloud gaming market and that, should the deal go through, it would "reinforce this strong position." In December, the US Federal Trade Commission sued to block the merger.

Microsoft makes its 10-year Call of Duty pact with Nintendo official

Late last year, Microsoft announced that it was "committed" to bringing Call of Duty (CoD) to Nintendo for 10 years if its Activision Blizzard acquisition was approved. Now, president Brad Smith has tweeted that the "binding" 10-year contract has been signed, and confirmed that Nintendo would get the same access to CoD as Xbox.

"Microsoft and Nintendo have now negotiated and signed a binding 10-year legal agreement to bring Call of Duty to Nintendo players — the same days as Xbox, with full feature and content parity," Microsoft wrote in a statement. "We are committed to providing long term equal access to Call of Duty to other gaming platforms." 

Microsoft previously said that it offered Sony a similar deal for PlayStation consoles, and committed to offer the game on Steam at the same time as Xbox — provided the merger goes through, of course.

The deals are all part of Microsoft's efforts to convince regulators allow its $68.7 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard to proceed. The deal is strongly in limbo right now, as the US Federal Trade Commission has sued to block the takeover, and the UK may require Activision to divest parts of its business for the merger to proceed. 

On top of that, the European Union is reportedly set to join the UK in declaring that the proposed acquisition could reduce competition. To that end, Microsoft reportedly requested a hearing with EU regulators to defend the deal — and that meeting is set for today, according to Reuters

The acquisition ran afoul of regulators from the start over concerns that it would cut off Sony's PS5 and other consoles from key games, particularly CoD. Sony vehemently opposes the deal, having called it a "game-changer that poses a threat to our industry." Microsoft has said that Sony's comments were "self-serving" and promised to support Call of Duty on PlayStation "forever."

Meta now owns VR fitness company Within

The tug of war over Meta's acquisition of Within is over. Meta has completed its purchase of the virtual reality workout app maker, bringing Supernatural and other projects into the metaverse giant's fold. The two didn't elaborate further on their plans, but Within said in October 2021 that it would continue to develop Supernatural exercise content under Meta's Reality Labs wing.

The deal was in doubt for a while. The Federal Trade Commission filed an antitrust suit to block the deal in July 2022, contending that Meta was trying to buy its way into VR dominance by acquiring key developers like Within and Beat Saber creator Beat Games. Meta agreed to delay the acquisition to provide more time. Last week, however, a federal court denied a preliminary injunction to block the merger while the FTC investigated. The commission decided against appealing the loss, but was yet to decide whether or not it would rely on an administrative law judge to stop the union.

Today marks a new chapter for Within and @GetSupernatural, as we officially join @Meta. We’re thrilled to help people transform their lives as we bring more joy, awe and wonder to the world. We look forward to what’s ahead.

— Within (@WITHIN) February 8, 2023

The move gives Meta control over one of the most popular VR fitness apps at a crucial moment. Meta is struggling to pivot to the metaverse between steep losses and a lack of clear incentives to spend extensive time in VR. Within gives Meta both a fitness system and a subscription service, albeit one aimed at a relatively niche audience. It also helps Meta compete against a growing wave of headsets that includes PlayStation VR2.

The completion isn't good news for the FTC, however. The Within buyout was an early test of commission chair Lina Khan's crackdown on Big Tech. While there are still other battles to fight, such as the antitrust suit over Microsoft's Activision Blizzard takeover, this suggests the regulator won't have an easy time keeping major companies in check.

FTC faces setback in bid to block Meta’s acquisition of VR developer Within

The Federal Trade Commission has suffered a setback in its attempt to prevent Meta from buying Supernatural developer Within Unlimited. According to Bloomberg, a federal court this week denied the agency’s request for a preliminary injunction to block the purchase. The deal reportedly won’t close for at least another week yet, as the court also issued a temporary restraining order to give the FTC time to decide whether to appeal the ruling.

Engadget could not confirm Bloomberg’s reporting because the court documents announcing the decision are sealed. Meta did not immediately respond to a comment request. The FTC sued the company last July, arguing Meta’s acquisition of Within would reduce competition in the emerging virtual reality market. Within is the creator of Supernatural, one of the most popular VR exercise apps on the Oculus Quest Store. An eight-day trial in December saw Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Chief Technology Officer Andrew “Boz” Bosworth testify. During the hearing, Bosworth said Meta could abandon the acquisition if it did not “close in a timely manner.”

With Wednesday’s decision, the FTC must decide whether to move forward with its antitrust case against Meta. The agency has a hearing scheduled for February 13th with its administrative judge. If the FTC chooses to let the order stand, it will mark an early defeat for agency head Lina Khan. President Biden appointed Khan to the FTC for her expertise in antitrust law. The Meta decision could impact the FTC’s effort to block Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard, a case where the agency already faces an uphill battle due to the vertical nature of the proposed merger.

Microsoft and FTC pre-trial hearing set for January 3rd

A federal judge has set a date for the first pre-trial hearing between Microsoft and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The two go to court on January 3rd to spar over the fate of Microsoft’s $69 billion bid to buy Call of Duty publisher Activision Blizzard. Microsoft and Activision announced the merger at the start of 2022. At the time, the tech giant said it expected the deal to close no later than June 2023. Last month, the FTC sued Microsoft to block the acquisition from moving forward.

“Microsoft has already shown that it can and will withhold content from its gaming rivals,” FTC Director Holly Vedova said at the time. “Today we seek to stop Microsoft from gaining control over a leading independent game studio and using it to harm competition in multiple dynamic and fast-growing gaming markets.”

The FTC is expected to face an uphill battle trying to convince a judge of the merits of its case. For one, Microsoft isn’t pushing for a “horizontal” merger that would see it take one of its direct competitors out of the picture. Additionally, the company has signaled it’s ready to make concessions to rubberstamp the deal. Should the merger move forward, Microsoft has pledged to release future Call of Duty games on competing platforms for at least 10 years. It also said it would bring the franchise to Nintendo consoles.

“The commission cannot meet its burden of showing that the transaction would leave consumers worse off, because the transaction will allow consumers to play Activision’s games on new platforms and access them in new and more affordable ways," Microsoft wrote in a legal filing last month. The deal also faces regulatory scrutiny from the United Kingdom’s Competition and Markets Authority, which recently said it would conduct an “in-depth” investigation of the proposed merger.

FTC sues to block Microsoft's Activision Blizzard merger

The Federal Trade Commission has filed an antitrust lawsuit in a bid to block Microsoft's planned $68.7 billion takeover of Activision Blizzard. The FTC started looking into the deal and its potential impact on the video game market soon after it was announced in January. Evidently, the agency was concerned enough to pump the brakes on the buyout.

The FTC's commissioners voted in favor of the lawsuit along party lines. The commission's three Democratic approved it and the Republican Commissioner Christine S. Wilson voted against it.

While the lawsuit doesn't necessarily kill the deal, it's unlikely to be resolved by July, as Politico, which had reported that an FTC bid to block the merger was likely, recently noted. That was the deadline Microsoft and Activision set for closing the deal. If the acquisition hasn't closed by then, the companies will have to renegotiate the agreement or even walk away from the merger. Regulators in other jurisdictions have been taking a close look at the deal, including in the UK and the European Union (which should complete its investigation by late March). 

Sony is the merger's most prominent opponent. It has expressed concern that Microsoft would make games such as Call of Duty exclusive to Xbox platforms (which could cost Sony hundreds of millions of dollars a year). However, Microsoft has said it wants to keep Call of Duty on PlayStation and it claims to have offered Sony a 10-year agreement to that effect.

Just ahead of the FTC's anticipated vote, Microsoft said it struck a deal with Nintendo to bring Call of Duty games to the company's systems if the merger closes. Call of Duty will also remain on Steam as part of a separate pact with Valve.

Microsoft and Activision have been downplaying the significance of the deal in an attempt to appease regulators and push it through. For one thing, Microsoft has claimed that Sony has more exclusive games, "many of which are better quality," in a filing with the UK's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). It also said Activision Blizzard doesn't have any "must-have" games, despite having some of the most popular titles in the world (including Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II, Overwatch 2 and World of Warcraft) under its umbrella.

That said, Microsoft has suggested that the acquisition the deal is more about gaining a foothold in the mobile gaming market, where Activision's King division is a major player. For instance, Candy Crush Saga has had more than 3 billion downloads.


Google merges Maps and Waze teams but says apps will remain separate

As part of recent cost-cutting measures, Google is planning to merge its Waze and Maps divisions, The Wall Street Journal has reported. The move is aimed at reducing duplicated work across the products, but Google said it will still keep the Waze and Maps apps separate. 

"Google remains deeply committed to Waze’s unique brand, its beloved app and its thriving community of volunteers and users," a spokesperson told the WSJ. Waze CEO Neha Parikh will leave her role after a transition period, but there will reportedly be no layoffs. Starting this Friday, the 500-strong Waze team will join Google's Geo organization in charge of Maps, Earth and Street View.

Waze and Maps have been sharing features ever since Google acquired Waze for $1.1 billion back in 2013. Waze's traffic data started appearing in Maps shortly after the acquisition, with speed limits, radar locations and other features arriving later. In return, Waze has benefited from Google's know-how in search. The FTC launched an antitrust investigation shortly after the acquisition, and at the time, Google said it was keeping Waze as a separate unit "for now." 

It's been nine years since then, but according to former CEO Noam Bardin, Waze hasn't enjoyed complete independence. "All of our growth at Waze post acquisition was from work we did, not support from the mothership. Looking back, we could have probably grown faster and much more efficiently had we stayed independent," he said in a LinkedIn post last year. 

Waze has 151 million monthly active users, compared to one billion for Google Maps services. Still, Waze is a highly popular navigation app (particularly in Europe), thanks to its crowd-sourced nature. Individual users can easily report traffic, police, crashes, map problems, radar cameras and more with the touch of a button. Google Maps added the ability to report driving incidents back in 2019, but is less geared around crowdsourcing.

With ad revenue slowing down at Google, CEO Sundar Pichai said in September that he hoped to make the company 20 percent more efficient. Part of that, he said, could be achieved via layoffs and merging multiple products.