Adobe’s Figma deal the latest to hit a regulator roadblock

Regulators might be playing catch-up when it comes to keeping the tech sector competitive, but they are working hard to make up for lost time.

What happened: The U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority has effectively blocked Adobe’s US $20 billion acquisition of Figma until the companies remedy anti-competitive issues it has identified.

  • Figma is considered Adobe’s biggest competitor in design software. It’s more focused on UX and product design, but the CMA pointed to Adobe axing its own UX and product design services as proof of the deal’s anti-competitive consequences.
  • Other than calling the whole thing off, the CMA said a possible remedy would involve Adobe divesting from Photoshop and Illustrator in markets with limited choice.
  • The European Union issued a warning over the deal earlier this month. The U.S. Department of Justice was reportedly considering filing a suit in February but has not yet made a formal move to block the deal.

Why it matters: Competition and antitrust regulators globally have been stepping up their scrutiny of tech and software deals.

  • While it was initially reported that the EU wouldn’t seek to stop Amazon’s acquisition of Roomba maker iRobot, the commission did release a list of concerns that it could block the deal over.
  • Antitrust cases against Meta and Google are ongoing in the U.S., but smaller companies are also getting attention. This year, the EU blocked from buying Swedish competitor Etraveli, while biotech firm Illumina was stopped from acquiring cancer screening company Grail.
  • Not every challenge is successful. In the summer, the DOJ lost its case to block Microsoft’s US $68.7 billion acquisition of video game developer Activision Blizzard.

In Canada: The government has been answering calls to give the Competition Act more teeth with a series of amendments. Bill C-56, introduced in September, would give the Competition Bureau additional order-making powers, while the fall economic statement promised changes empowering it to block more mergers.