EXCLUSIVE EU antitrust regulator seeks comment on Microsoft’s Nuance deal

A Microsoft logo is seen in Los Angeles, California, the United States, on November 7, 2017. REUTERS / Lucy Nicholson / File Photo / File Photo

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December 7 (Reuters) – The EU antitrust regulator takes a closer look at Microsoft Corp’s (MSFT.O) $ 16 billion deal for transcription technology company Nuance Communications Inc (NUAN.O), asking customers and competitors to list their concerns, according to a questionnaire last month seen by Reuters.

The previously unreported awareness is the most extensive by an antitrust authority since the companies announced the acquisition in April, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Microsoft declined to comment and Nuance did not respond to a request for comment.

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After minimal scrutiny, the US Department of Justice in June and the Australian Competition Commission in October said they would not challenge the deal. The companies filed for approval with the European Commission’s competition office last month, and the regulator has until December 21 to either clear the deal or open a larger investigation.

The companies expected to close the deal by the end of this year, but said last month that the schedule could be pushed back to early next year.

The questionnaire asks whether Microsoft and Nuance are competitors and whether a merger could affect customers and competitors, including whether Microsoft might favor Nuance over competing services.

Nuance primarily sells transcription technology that is popular among doctors and call centers who want to automate note taking. Analysts believe deal strengthens Microsoft’s presence in the healthcare market and provides it with new voice and medical data to shape artificial intelligence offerings in healthcare, speech, and biometric security .

Like other big tech companies, Microsoft has grown its business for years through acquisitions, such as advertising and video games. But over the past decade, Microsoft has avoided the target that recently pursued rivals Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O) Google, Facebook Inc (FB.O), Apple Inc (AAPL.O) and Amazon.com Inc (AMZN .O), all of which are subject to numerous antitrust lawsuits and investigations.

Steven Weber, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley who studies the intersection of technology and healthcare, said possible concerns about the current deal could include Microsoft forcing its Office suite on Nuance customers into them. regrouping.

Nuance said it serves 77% of US hospitals.

According to former managing director Paul Ricci and another former employee, one of the keys to his success has been to ensure in agreements with customers that he could use their data to advance his speech recognition systems.

For example, a Nuance contract with Augusta University Medical Center, obtained by Reuters this year as part of a public registration request, states: “Customer must provide Nuance with access to voice and text data. . copy, use and analyze this data for speech recognition research. “

Large cloud providers like Amazon and Microsoft typically don’t have unlimited access to customer data for research and development. But the opportunity to acquire these relationships and data explains Microsoft’s interest in Nuance, former employees said.

Other providers of medical transcription technologies include 3M Co (MMM.N) and Philips (PHG.AS).

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Reporting by Paresh Dave; Editing by Kenneth Li and David Gregorio

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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