Amazon, Microsoft AI partnerships face potential UK antitrust probe

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The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has taken preliminary steps to investigate recent partnerships made by top AI sector participants, according to an April 24 release.

The CMA invited comments on Microsoft’s partnership with Mistral AI, Amazon’s partnership with Anthropic, and Microsoft’s hiring and licensing arrangement with Inflection AI.

The antitrust agency aims to determine whether each firm’s activities “fall within UK merger rules” and their potential impact on competition. Joel Bamford, Executive Director of Mergers, said the CMA will conduct any assessment “objectively and impartially.”

The agency said a past report identified a web of more than 90 partnerships and strategic investments, some of which may not fall within merger rules.

The CMA’s current invitations to comment (ITC) do not begin a formal review. The agency has not reached any conclusions and does not necessarily have jurisdiction for further action.

The comment period has a May 9 deadline.

Companies respond

Several targetted companies have contested the regulator’s action due to the nature of their partnerships.

In a statement to CNBC, Amazon called the review “unprecedented” for a partnership of its type abd emphasized that it only provided a limited investment to Anthropic — which does not grant it a board seat or an observer role.

Additionally, Anthropic relies on multiple cloud providers beyond Amazon Web Services for its operations.

Anthropic separately told CNBC that it operates independently from Amazon. The company said it intends to cooperate with the CMA and will provide the requested information.

Microsoft told CNBC it is “confident” that hiring and fractional investments differ from mergers. It said it would provide the CMA with information.

Original partnerships

Amazon entered its $4 billion partnership with Anthropic in March, while Microsoft confirmed a $16 million investment with Mistral in February.

The CMA described each partnership’s computer resource sharing and business aspects but only mentioned the Amazon partnership’s financial aspects.

Microsoft also reached a licensing arrangement with Inflection in March, simultaneously hiring Inflection co-founder Mustafa Suleyman and several other employees. The size of the deal is estimated at $650 million.

Microsoft has also partnered extensively with OpenAI. The CMA opened a comment period on the partnership in December 2023 but closed it in January. It did not lead to a probe.

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