US judge temporarily halts Microsoft-Activision Blizzard merger

The FTC has been successful, albeit temporarily, in its attempt to prevent Microsoft from completing its deal with Activision Blizzard. According to The Financial Times and Bloomberg, a US federal judge has issued an order temporarily blocking the acquisition until the court decides on the FTC’s request for a preliminary injunction. This comes after news reports stated that the companies were finalizing the deal “imminently,” setting the acquisition deadline for July 18th.

Judge Edward J. Davila has ruled that the merger cannot proceed until five days after the court decides whether to issue an injunction against it. The court is scheduled to hear the FTC’s request on June 22nd and 23rd, and if the court does not ultimately side with the agency, the companies can proceed with their plans at the end of this month. The commission stated that if Microsoft controlled Activision’s content, they could withhold or degrade it, which would substantially lessen competition.

However, Microsoft and Activision Blizzard seem unfazed by the FTC’s lawsuit and stated that the injunction request is “accelerating the legal process” that will help the merger move forward sooner. In May, the European Union approved the acquisition with the condition that Microsoft releases popular Activision Blizzard games on competing cloud gaming services. But, the companies still need to convince US and UK authorities to allow the merger to push through. The FTC filed an antitrust complaint in December 2022 to block the deal over concerns that it would suppress competitors to Microsoft’s Xbox gaming consoles and subscription content and cloud-gaming business. The lawsuit was filed at the agency’s in-house court, and the commission’s administrative law judge is set to hear the case in August.

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