This Jan 23, 2023 picture taken in Toulouse, southwestern France, shows screens displaying the logos of Microsoft and OpenAI. (PHOTO / AFP)
LONDON – Britain's antitrust regulator said on Friday it will review whether to launch a merger probe of Microsoft's multi-billion dollar partnership with OpenAI, after the ChatGPT maker said the US tech giant would have a non-voting board seat.
The review will consider whether the tie-up has resulted in an "acquisition of control," which leads to one party having material influence over another, the Competition and Markets Authority said on Friday.
It is the second time this year the regulator has looked at the US software giant's operations and it also said it was considering if the deal had resulted in the creation of a relevant merger situation.
The move comes after a November announcement that Microsoft will take a non-voting position on OpenAI's board
"There have recently been a number of developments in the governance of OpenAI, some of which involved Microsoft," the CMA said.
"In light of these developments, the CMA is now issuing an ITC to determine whether the Microsoft / OpenAI partnership, including recent developments, has resulted in a relevant merger situation and, if so, the potential impact on competition."
The move comes after a November announcement that Microsoft will take a non-voting position on OpenAI's board.
"The only thing that has changed is that Microsoft will now have a non-voting observer on OpenAI’s Board, which is very different from an acquisition such as Google’s purchase of DeepMind in the UK," Microsoft vice chair and president Brad Smith said in a statement.
He said the company will work closely with the CMA. OpenAI did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The observer position means Microsoft's representative can attend OpenAI's board meetings and access confidential information, but it does not have voting rights on matters including electing or choosing directors.
Microsoft has committed to invest over $10 billion into OpenAI.
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