Microsoft announced an agreement in April 2021 to purchase Nuance Communications, Inc. for $19.7 billion. Nuance specializes in artificial intelligence and speech technology and has a large presence in the medical industry, especially in the United States. Before that deal goes through, however, it will be looked at in more detail by the EU’s antitrust regulator. A report from Reuters explains that a questionnaire has been sent out to customers and competitors regarding the purchase.
Sources tell Reuters that the questionnaire is the most extensive outreach by an antitrust authority since the announcement of the deal. Neither Microsoft nor Nuance have responded to requests for comments.
The U.S. Department of Justice approved the deal in June 2021, and the Australian Competition Commission followed suit in October of this year. Nuance and Microsoft filed for approval from the European Commission’s competition bureau in November 2021. That bureau has until December 21, 2021 to approve the acquisition or open a more in-depth investigation.
The questionnaire reportedly asks if clients and competitors of Microsoft and Nuance could be affected by the deal. Part of it inquires regarding if the acquisition would lead to Microsoft favoring Nuance over competing services.
Nuance is well-known for its Dragon speech-recognition software and for the fact that it helped make Apple’s Siri possible. Nuance is also a major player in the healthcare industry, allowing hospitals and health care professionals to utilize voice transcription. Nuance claims that it serves 77% of hospitals in the United States.
Reuters highlights that a core component of Nuance’s success stems from the fact that it has contracts in the healthcare industry that allow the company to use data to improve voice recognition. This is in contrast to many contracts held by Amazon and Microsoft, which frequently do not involve such extensive access to data.
When Microsoft announced its agreement to acquire Nuance, we spoke with several industry experts regarding the purchase.
“The healthcare industry is primed for digital transformation. All of the digital giants have healthcare initiatives. This acquisition moves MS forward in that effort,” said Gartner analyst Gregg Pessin in April 2021. “It provides access to Nuance’s well-established healthcare client base — think EHRs with digital transcription capabilities.”
Part of the $19.7 billion price of the acquisition — a little over $3 billion of it — covers Nuance’s debts.