June 17, 2024

The FTC is reportedly preparing to halt an in-house trial of Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard

The US antitrust agency, the Federal Trade Commission, is reportedly preparing to pause its upcoming in-house trial targeting Microsoft’s proposed $69bn USD acquisition of Activision Blizzard, which could pave the way for settlement talks between the various parties.

The FTC has long expressed its opposition to Microsoft’s proposed deal and sued to block its progress in December of last year, claiming the acquisition would allow the company to eliminate competition in the games industry. The agency was in the news recently when it failed to get an injunction preventing Microsoft from closing the deal while its domestic court considered whether to block the acquisition.

After that victory, and a subsequent failed attempt to obtain injunctive relief, the FTC is preparing to suspend its own trial – which was to be heard by its in-house administrative court in August – in response to a request from Microsoft and Activision. Bloomberg, citing sources familiar with the situation, say the request must be granted after an unsuccessful federal court motion by the FTC under the agency’s own rules.

Newscast: Is Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard due now?Watch on YouTube

Bloomberg reports that the FTC is expected to issue an order to withdraw its case later today, after which Microsoft and Activision can try to convince the agency’s commissioners to accept a settlement or drop their opposition to the acquisition altogether.

The deadline to close the merger was originally set for July 18 this year but Microsoft and Activision Blizzard have now agreed to extend that deadline to October 18 – albeit with higher termination fees – saying they are “optimistic about getting this done.”

That hope probably goes far beyond the FTC; Microsoft and Activision recently agreed with the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority – which officially blocked the acquisition in April – to apply for a two-month “litigation stay” while possible remedies were discussed. That application has now been provisionally approved by the Competition Appeal Tribunal, which was originally due to hear Microsoft’s appeal against the CMA on 28 July.

The CMA has also extended the deadline for its final decision on Microsoft’s proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard from 18 July to 29 August.

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