US agency loses bid to block $69bn Microsoft-Activision deal

Path clear for companies to close the US's largest gaming agreement

The decision handed a major victory to Microsoft and allows it to close its purchase of Activision as planned. AP
Powered by automated translation

An appeals court denied a Federal Trade Commission bid to pause Microsoft's $69 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard on Friday, clearing a path for the companies to close the largest gaming deal in the US.

The ninth Circuit US Court of Appeals ruling means that only UK regulators stand between the companies closing the deal before a July 18 deadline.

Britain’s antitrust appeals court has scheduled a hearing on July 17 to discuss the companies’ request to pause the challenge to their deal by the country’s competition agency.

“This brings us another step closer to the finish line in this marathon of global regulatory reviews,” Microsoft president Brad Smith said.

Activision didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Activision climbed as much as 4.4 per cent in after-hours trading, rising to $94 from its close of $90.07. Microsoft gained 1.5 per cent.

The ruling is a blow to the FTC and its chair Lina Khan, who sought to block the merger over concerns that Microsoft would withhold Activision’s most popular games from rival consoles or services.

The court-ordered pause on Microsoft’s Activision merger expires at midnight Pacific time (11am Saturday UAE).

Microsoft has a strong incentive to close the deal before the July 18 deadline to avoid paying a $3 billion break-up fee to Activision.

The FTC didn’t immediately respond to a request to comment on the ruling and whether it plans to pursue its internal case opposing the deal.

Proceedings before an FTC administrative judge were scheduled to start on August 2.

The UK Competition and Markets Authority, which vetoed the merger in April amid concerns over the deal’s impact on the cloud gaming market, has agreed to give Microsoft an unprecedented second chance to offer a remedy.

Microsoft has offered to sell off the cloud-based market rights for games in the UK, Bloomberg reported.

In a procedural move separate from this week’s developments, the CMA said on Friday it had extended its deadline for issuing a legally final order on the deal until August 29.

Updated: July 15, 2023, 4:32 AM