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Court denies FTC’s latest attempt to block Microsoft from buying Activision Blizzard

Court denies FTC’s latest attempt to block Microsoft from buying Activision Blizzard

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has lost what may be its final attempt to block Microsoft from buying Activision Blizzard. It’s the FTC’s second loss after a US federal judge denied its request for a preliminary injunction earlier this week to block Microsoft from acquiring Activision Blizzard until the completion of a separate FTC administrative case.

The FTC appealed Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley’s decision, and now the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has it refused his request for emergency relief to prevent Microsoft from closing the transaction until the outcome of the FTC appeal is complete.

Deposit the ninth circuit of the Court of Appeal.
Image: US Courts

Microsoft welcomed the rejection late Friday. “We appreciate the quick response of the 9th Circuit that rejected the FTC’s motion to further delay the transaction. This brings us another step closer to the finish line in this marathon of global regulatory reviews,” Brad Smith, vice president and president of Microsoft, says in a statement to the edge.

That means Microsoft is now free to close the Activision Blizzard deal after a temporary restraining order, part of Judge Corley’s order, expires at 11:59 p.m. PT tonight. Microsoft has until July 18th to close its deal; Otherwise, it may need to renegotiate terms with Activision Blizzard, pay a $3 billion breakup fee if Activision wants to walk away, or simply let the deal deadline extend naturally if both parties are happy to do so.

Microsoft may not be able to close the deal right away. There remains the complex issue of blocking the deal in the UK. The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority blocked Microsoft’s deal earlier this year, citing competition concerns in the emerging cloud gaming market. The CMA and Microsoft have agreed to pause their legal battles to see how the transaction can be modified in order to address the CMA’s cloud gaming concerns.

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The UK regulator also warned this week that Microsoft’s proposals could “lead to a new merger” and that discussions with Microsoft were at an early stage. The Capital Market Authority also issued a notice extending its comprehensive investigation into the deal earlier today, moving the date of final pledges or final order from July 18 to August 29.

CMA extension comes after hours bloomberg mentioned Microsoft is considering selling UK cloud gaming rights to a telco, gaming or internet company to allow the Activision UK deal to close.

Update, July 15 at 8 p.m. ET: Article has been updated with a comment from Microsoft.