UK says Adobe’s $20B deal for Figma would hurt graphic design market

The UK competition authority has objected to Adobe’s proposed $20 billion acquisition of cloud-based design company Figma, on grounds that it might stifle innovation.

According to the results of an investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), Adobe’s refusal to provide concessions to alleviate worries about the deal has led to findings that the acquisition would eliminate competition and remove Figma as a  threat to Adobe’s main products, Photoshop and Illustrator.

Last year, Adobe revealed its intention to acquire Figma, whose  platform is designed to enable collaborative app and website design, for $20 billion. Figma is viewed as a significant competitor to Adobe in the design software arena.

“Adobe and Figma are two of the world leading providers of software for app and web designers, and our investigation so far has found that they are close competitors,” Margot Daly, chair of the independent group conducting the UK investigation, said in a news release on Tuesday

The CMA is considering ways to address its concerns about the merger. Possible remedies include stopping the merger completely or requiring Adobe to sell off parts of its business that overlap with Figma’s, especially in areas where the deal might reduce competition.

The investigation into Adobe’s bid isn’t finished yet. Besides the UK’s CMA, the EU  and the U.S. Department of Justice are also looking into Adobe’s move to acquire Figma. The EU recently sent Adobe a formal complaint regarding  competition concerns, and there were reports that the US Department of Justice might sue to stop the deal.

The CMA has given a preliminary decision, pointing out the main problems that must be fixed for the deal to go through. Now, the CMA will ask for opinions on these issues and their possible solutions. Adobe and Figma have until December 19 respond before the CMA makes its final decision on February 25th next year.

“The challenge will now be for the merging parties to persuade the competition regulators that they have got the analysis wrong in their provisional assessments,” Alex Haffner, competition partner at UK law firm Fladgate, said in a statement to the media. “Or, more likely, to come up with a package of remedies which can satisfy their stated concerns.”

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