Broadcom’s $69bn VMware deal set for prolonged EU antitrust investigation


Broadcom’s $69bn acquisition of cloud software program firm VMware is ready for a prolonged antitrust investigation in Brussels over regulatory issues that the deal will hurt competitors throughout the worldwide know-how business.

Broadcom is already in preliminary discussions with EU officers who might be trying into worries that the merger could result in abusive behaviour, together with potential future value rises by the US chipmaker, three folks with direct information of the transaction mentioned.

Many massive acquisitions obtain related interrogation, recognized in EU circles as a “phase 1” investigation, which usually takes just a few months to finish.

But these near the state of affairs recommend that EU authorities plan to push ahead with a extra detailed “phase 2” investigation, which may take properly over a yr and will in the end derail the deal altogether. Nvidia finally walked away from a proposed $66bn buy of chip designer Arm after being topic to a prolonged EU antitrust probe.

Broadcom didn’t instantly reply to requests for remark.

The firm’s acquisition of VMware is among the many largest within the historical past of the know-how business, second solely to Microsoft’s proposed $75bn buy of video games maker Activision Blizzard.

Opponents of the deal, which embrace some present VMware shoppers, have written to the EU to argue VMware’s clients may in future be tied into shopping for Broadcom providers. 

They level to 2 current transactions led by Broadcom, its $18.9bn takeover of CA Technologies in 2018 and its $10.7bn deal to purchase Symantec’s enterprise safety enterprise a yr later as current examples of how the US chipmaker dangers undermining competitors. In each offers, they claimed, Broadcom raised costs.

These issues are being aired earlier than senior EU officers, together with competitors chief Margrethe Vestager, although Broadcom is unlikely to formally file the acquisition for evaluate by antitrust authorities till after the summer season break, in line with folks with information of the method.

Further regulatory scrutiny is anticipated to return from the US, whereas the UK and China may nonetheless launch probes.

The chipmaker has already fought instances towards the European Commission for alleged anti-competitive practices. In October 2020, Brussels accepted commitments by the US group to make sure competitors within the chipset marketplace for modems.

Broadcom has emerged as one of many largest chipmakers on the planet on the again of a roll-up spree led by Hock Tan, its deal-hungry chief government for greater than a decade.

The Malaysian American government was blocked from additional consolidating the semiconductor business in 2019. The Federal Trade Commission accused Broadcom of being a monopolist within the sector. 

The regulatory assault led Tan to shift his shopping for consideration to software program and cloud providers corporations, a transfer that goals to show Broadcom right into a broader tech conglomerate. 

Last November, the FTC prohibited Broadcom from asking for purchasers to purchase bundles, known as “exclusivity” or “loyalty” agreements, in its sale of semiconductors for web gadgets. It additionally prohibited Broadcom from “retaliating against customers for doing business with Broadcom’s competitors”.

“The regulators are going to take a hard look at [the VMware deal] just because this is Broadcom and a large tech transaction,” mentioned Andy Li, a senior analyst at analysis agency CreditSights.

Broadcom will push again on these fears, in line with folks near the corporate, by arguing that it isn’t a merger between rivals so won’t result in elevated market energy. It may also argue the deal is unlikely to lift costs or undermine the standard of the service or have any unfavorable influence on innovation.

Broadcom may also dismiss any comparability to Nvidia’s failed acquisition of Arm, the place Nvidia’s rivals have been depending on licensing preparations for Arm’s chips. 

But commerce associations, representing a whole bunch of corporations which can be shoppers of VMware, together with France’s Cigref, despatched a letter this week to regulators in Brussels asking them to behave pre-emptively to dam the deal because of issues over anti-competitive practices.

Additional reporting by Harriet Agnew in London and Richard Waters in San Francisco