Adobe’s proposed plan to snap up digital design rival Figma for $20 billion has attracted the attentions of the European Commission (EC), which announced today that the proposed merger potentially “threatens to significantly affect competition in the market for interactive product design and whiteboarding software.”
While the EC acknowledged that the transaction doesn’t meet the turnover thresholds set out in the EU merger regulations, meaning that the merging companies weren’t required to notify European regulators, there are separate provisions in Article 22 that allow member EU countries to refer specific cases to the EC if they believe that a transaction will diminish a competition in specific European markets.
A press bulletin published by the EC noted:
This provision allows Member States to request the Commission to examine a concentration that does not have an EU dimension but affects trade within the single market and threatens to significantly affect competition within the territory of the Member States making the request.
As such, the EC said that it has received requests from Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden to look at the deal and determine whether there is a case to answer.
Today’s news comes some five months after news first emerged that Adobe was to buy Figma, the 10-year-old venture-backed startup behind a collaborative design platform. A deal of that size was always likely to attract some regulatory scrutiny, with the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) already looking closely at the deal while the U.K. is also making initial enquiries.
It was widely accepted that Europe would also look at the deal, particularly after Austria’s competition watchdog sought a referral for the proposed merger last month, so today’s news is not exactly unexpected.
It’s worth noting that this doesn’t signal Europe’s intent to launch a full investigation, just that it will request that Adobe formally notifies the EC of the transaction, which will likely kickstart an initial review at an EU level. This also means that irrespective of what happens in other jurisdictions around the world, Adobe won’t be able to conclude the transaction before it’s cleared by the EC.