Adobe and Figma Terminate $20 Billion Merger Amid Regulatory Pressure

In a surprising turn of events, Adobe and Figma jointly announced on Monday that they are abandoning their $20 billion merger agreement, citing mounting pressure from regulators in the UK and EU. The deal, which would have seen Adobe acquire the popular Figma product design platform, faced resistance from authorities concerned about Adobe's near-monopoly in the design software market.

As a consequence of the termination, Adobe is obligated to pay Figma a reverse termination fee amounting to $1 billion in cash. The decision to part ways comes after both companies expressed strong disagreement with recent regulatory findings. Despite sharing a vision to redefine the future of creativity and productivity, Adobe and Figma have chosen to move forward independently.

Adobe's chair and CEO, Shantanu Narayen, stated, "While Adobe and Figma shared a vision to jointly redefine the future of creativity and productivity, we continue to be well positioned to capitalize on our massive market opportunity and mission to change the world through personalized digital experiences."

Regulators, particularly in the UK and EU, raised concerns about the potential impact of the acquisition on competition and innovation. Figma, a rapidly growing product design platform, had gained popularity, surpassing Adobe's rival XD application. Regulators worried that the merger could stifle innovation that might have flourished if Figma were allowed to remain independent.

Designers had also voiced similar concerns since the merger was initially announced in September 2022. Adobe consistently rebuffed these claims throughout the ongoing probes. However, regulators persisted, and in a letter dated December 14th, Adobe rejected remedies proposed by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to gain approval for the merger.

The CMA suggested a significant divestment of assets, source code, and engineers to restore competition conditions. Discussions among all parties were scheduled for December 21st, with a final deadline to approve or block the acquisition set for February 25th. The European Commission was concurrently scrutinizing the deal, and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) was reportedly preparing investigations.

Following Adobe's announcement, the European Commission has dropped its antitrust investigation into the merger. The pressure from regulators left Adobe with little room to maneuver, making it challenging to proceed with the deal while obtaining all the Figma assets it had initially sought.

Figma's CEO, Dylan Field, expressed disappointment, stating, "It's not the outcome we had hoped for. Despite thousands of hours spent with regulators around the world detailing differences between our businesses, our products, and the markets we serve, we no longer see a path toward regulatory approval of the deal."

The termination of this high-profile merger underscores the complexities and challenges companies face when navigating regulatory scrutiny, even when pursuing opportunities to redefine industries and drive innovation. As Adobe and Figma regroup independently, the design software landscape is likely to witness continued competition and evolution.