Microsoft’s OpenAI investment may prompt an EU merger review

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Microsoft's OpenAI investment may prompt an EU merger review
Microsoft's OpenAI investment may prompt an EU merger review

Microsoft’s multibillion-dollar investment in ChatGPT creator OpenAI may prompt a European Union merger inquiry, the bloc’s executive branch warns.

Microsoft’s multibillion-dollar investment in ChatGPT developer OpenAI may trigger a European Union merger review, the bloc’s executive branch warned Tuesday.

The European Commission stated that it is “checking whether Microsoft’s investment in OpenAI might be reviewable” under EU merger and acquisition rules that would impair competition in the EU’s 27 member states.

The review could result in a formal investigation regarding whether the transaction should be cleared unconditionally, cleared with concessions from the companies, or prohibited. Last month, the UK’s antitrust agency launched a similar investigation.

Antitrust regulators in the United States have also expressed worries about competition in the AI business. The Federal Trade Commission adopted new measures in November that will allow it to more readily probe AI products and services, noting that “AI can raise competition issues in a variety of ways, including if one or just a few companies control the essential inputs or technologies that underpin AI.”

Microsoft has invested in OpenAI in numerous stages, including an initial $1 billion in 2019 and a multibillion-dollar investment last year.

With its extraordinary skills, OpenAI’s generative AI chatbot ChatGPT has attracted global interest, propelling the San Francisco-based startup to the top ranks of AI startups. Based on user input, generative AI systems such as ChatGPT can generate new text, images, videos, or audio recordings.

The European Commission, the bloc’s top antitrust regulator, is seeking opinion from firms and experts on any competition risks they perceive in generative AI and has requested information from “several large digital players” who have not been identified.

The commission is “also closely monitoring AI partnerships to ensure they do not unduly distort market dynamics,” said Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s antitrust prosecutor, in a press release.

On a trip to the United States this week, Vestager will meet with OpenAI leaders, including Google CEO Sundar Pichai, Apple CEO Tim Cook, and Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang.

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