Antitrust Opportunity

Jan 20, 2022

Why didn't Microsoft come after Google in early 2000s? Bing wasn't launched until 2009, more than a decade after Google was founded. One guess is that the antitrust case against Microsoft had recently determined (2001) that Microsoft illegally used its monopoly power against Netscape. Microsoft wasn't willing to take any risks upsetting regulators more.

The PC generation of technology companies, Microsoft (1975) and Apple (1976), were founded during the era of antitrust regulation against IBM (1969-1981) that was ultimately dismissed, but might have created a similar opportunity.

Microsoft recently announced their intent to acquire Activision Blizzard for $69 billion. Amazon, Google, and Meta are repeatedly under scrutiny, but Microsoft seems to have free reign.

There are two large forces that affect young companies – (1) macroeconomics (2) and policy and regulation. Macroeconomics is futile to predict, interest rates will go up, stay the same, and go down (and it can materially affect your tech business, but there's not much you can do).

Policy and regulation are at least more observable. I wouldn't want to be in the gaming (or metaverse) business right now if I wasn't Microsoft. Vertical integration between cloud, consoles, and content is increasingly important. But maybe the latest wave of antitrust hearings are actually creating a Google-like opportunity in the markets that Amazon, Google, and Meta compete in.

You can calculate the market's "probability" that the deal goes through (a gross oversimplification, but follow along). In the "bad case" the stock goes back to pre-acquisition levels ($65). In the "good case" the merger goes through and the stock converts at $95. Currently the stock is trading at $82.15, which means the market is about split (57%) on whether the deal will go through or not. (This is called a merger-arbitrage trade).