Microsoft’s $19.7B Nuance deal is lastly ultimate, almost a yr after it was introduced

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Nuance Conversational AI in use by a radiology doctor. (Nuance Communications Photo)

Microsoft completed its $19.7 billion acquisition of voice technology company Nuance Communications on Friday morning, two days after clearing their final regulatory hurdle.

Nuance and Microsoft announced the acquisition agreement 11 months ago, in April 2021. It was originally expected to close by the end of 2021. The longer-than-expected timeline reflects growing regulatory scrutiny of tech deals.

Based in the Boston area, Nuance has a large presence in the Seattle region as a result of several acquisitions of its own, including VoiceBox, Swype, Tweddle, Varolii, and Jott. Nuance last year acquired Saykara, a Seattle health-tech startup that makes a voice assistant for clinicians.

Microsoft says its Nuance acquisition will result in new solutions that combine voice, artificial intelligence and cloud technologies for industries including healthcare, retail, telecommunications and financial services.

Microsoft Cloud + AI Chief Scott Guthrie will oversee Nuance as part of Microsoft, with the company’s CEO Mark Benjamin reporting to him. (GeekWire File Photo / Kevin Lisota)

The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority found this week that the deal “does not give rise to a realistic prospect of a substantial lessening of competition” in the country. The EU approved the deal in December; the U.S. in June.

When announced, it was to be the second-largest deal in Microsoft’s history, behind only the company’s $26.2 billion LinkedIn acquisition. Microsoft’s $68.7 billion agreement to acquire Activision-Blizzard has since trumped them both, but it’s expected to face even more intense regulatory scrutiny given its size and broader implications.

Healthcare will a major focus for the companies, building on an existing partnership.

“We are committed to innovating new and cutting-edge AI solutions that help make healthcare more personal, affordable, effective and accessible, while also continuing to improve the patient and clinician experience,” wrote Nuance CEO Mark Benjamin and Scott Guthrie, Microsoft Cloud + AI executive vice president, in a post outlining their broader plans on Friday morning.

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Benjamin will remain Nuance CEO as part of Microsoft, reporting to Guthrie, following a model similar to LinkedIn, in which acquired companies continue to operate with a certain degree of independence inside Microsoft. Nuance had 6,900 employees as of September 2021.

Nuance’s results will be reported as part of Microsoft’s Intelligent Cloud division. The publicly traded company posted a net loss of $26.7 million on revenue of $812 million in its most recent fiscal year.

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