The European Union has announced its commencement of a detailed antitrust investigation into Adobe’s offer to purchase product design platform Figma, warning that the transaction may “reduce competition in the global markets for the supply of interactive product design software and for digital asset creation tools.”
The Commission has between now and December 14th to decide the next actions. These can entail requiring corrections before approving the merger, blocking it outright, or approving it if it turns out that the EU’s initial concerns are baseless.
The European Commission expressed its main concern about the transaction’s possible effects on the availability of interactive product design tools and tools for the creation of digital assets. The Commission will also look into the possibility of closing off competing software providers if Figma is bundled with Adobe’s Creative Cloud package.
The Commission previously stated in February that it would evaluate the acquisition in response to requests from at least sixteen member states. Using data from those nations, the Commission came to the conclusion that the purchase could “significantly affect competition in the market for interactive product design and whiteboarding software.”
In September of last year, Adobe said that it was buying Figma for almost $20 billion. If accepted, it might exceed the $19 billion that Facebook (now Meta) spent to acquire Whatsapp in 2014. Wall Street first criticized Adobe’s bid for being way overpriced, but also because Figma’s more well-known business and its own product design platform, Adobe XD, are quite similar. Regulators are worried that giving Adobe ownership over one of the few options in the product design software market will impede competition and innovation. Adobe began phasing XD out of wide availability after the acquisition was announced.
The transaction is also being evaluated in the US and the UK, with the latter elevating the investigation to a comparable “phase two” review on July 13th after Adobe and Figma failed to provide any solutions to meet antitrust concerns. Although the UK inquiry has a longer statutory deadline of December 27, it is unclear which of the investigations will be finalized first.
Although Adobe still expects to close the Figma purchase in 2023, the odds are against it now that the EU investigation is involved.