During a Q&A session that was part of its recent 2023 annual meeting, Berkshire Hathaway Chairman and CEO Warren Buffett and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger answered questions from shareholders. One question sought Buffett’s thoughts on the UK government’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) blocking the proposed $69B USD acquisition of Activision Blizzard by Microsoft.
Buffett and his shareholders care about the merger because the company holds 6.7% of Activision Blizzard, or roughly 52.72M shares valued at approximately $4B USD, according to CNBC’s portfolio tracker. The company increased its stake in the Call of Duty maker following Microsoft’s announcement that it planned to acquire it.
As captured in a three-minute video from CNBC (and first brought to light by this Niche Gamer article), Buffett said that the British government was making a big mistake. Of course, Buffett said a lot more than just that the UK government was making a mistake in blocking the acquisition, so The Esports Advocate has transcribed his response below—it was an answer to a question on if Berkshire Hathaway had reduced its holdings in Activision Blizzard as a result of this decision, to which Buffet said the following:
Well, I think in terms of what we do with stocks, we don’t give information unless required to—which is in the 13F or whatever we file—and there’s certain things you can actually figure out by looking at our 10Q, which we filed this morning, but you’d have to look pretty hard. I would say this, I think Microsoft has been remarkably—what’s the word?—cooperative with governing bodies. I mean, they want to do the deal, and they’ve met the opposition, it seems to me, more than halfway but that doesn’t mean it gets done if a given country—in this case the UK–wants to block. They are in a better position to block it than the United States—that’s just the way the world works—and that doesn’t get solved by offering more money so I don’t know how it turns out. But if it doesn’t go through it isn’t due any shortcoming by Microsoft or Activision. But not everything that should happen does happen…
Well, we ran into it when we made the deal with Dominion Energy 18 months ago and they let us buy a bit of what we wanted to buy and then the U.S. government said in effect, ‘you can’t buy something else,’ which I think we would have done a better job with than anybody else did, and the states involved did not object to it, the customers didn’t object to it, but you don’t take on the United States government… you know, we try and figure out things that you won’t have a problem with, and in that case I think the U.S. government made a mistake.
I think the British government is making a mistake in this case, but that’s life in the big city, I would say, and what we do will depend on a lot of things.
Munger added later, “You kissed that one off beautifully.”
On a related note, Microsoft has hired Daniel Beard KC, a well-known lawyer with UK-based law firm Monckton Chamber, to help handle its appeal of the CMA’s decision. He is best known for winning an appeal in the European Commission’s General Court that overturned a billion-dollar fine from the European Commission against Intel related to a ruling on anti-competitive activities in the semiconductor market.
You can read TEA’s continuing coverage on the proposed Microsoft – Activision Blizzard acquisition here.