FTC takes to appeals court to pause Microsoft’s Activision bid

14 Jul 2023

Image: © FP Creative Stock/Stock.adobe.com

Microsoft president Brad Smith said that the FTC is ‘continuing to pursue what has become a demonstrably weak case’.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has asked an appeals court in the US to temporarily block Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision-Blizzard.

This comes after a previous FTC request to block the $69bn deal was rejected by a federal judge earlier this week.

Last month, the FTC filed a complaint, temporarily blocking the deal, stating that this was necessary “to maintain the status quo and prevent harm to competition”. However, the federal court ruling on Tuesday (11 July) said that while the deal deserves scrutiny, Microsoft had made sufficient commitments to bring Activision’s content to several cloud gaming services.

“This court’s responsibility in this case is narrow. It is to decide if, notwithstanding these current circumstances, the merger should be halted – perhaps even terminated – pending resolution of the FTC administrative action,” said the judge.

The latest request from the FTC filed yesterday is an emergency motion to the Court of Appeals  for the Ninth Circuit asking for a “temporary pause” on the Microsoft deal.

“We’re disappointed that the FTC is continuing to pursue what has become a demonstrably weak case, and we will oppose further efforts to delay the ability to move forward,” Microsoft president Brad Smith said.

Microsoft first announced plans to acquire the gaming company behind Call of Duty and Candy Crush in January last year. It was estimated at the time that the acquisition would make Microsoft the world’s third-largest video game company by revenue after Tencent and Sony.

Soon after the announcement, the two companies were hit by a barrage of regulatory scrutiny on both sides of the Atlantic.

While the EU has given Microsoft and Activision the green light to go ahead with the deal following an in-depth review, the UK has now launched an investigation into the matter.

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic