Microsoft’s attempted $69 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard has been in a kind of limbo due to scrutiny from various regulatory bodies here in the U.S. and in the UK, and today the tech company faces one more hurdle. The Federal Trade Commission has filed a request for both a restraining order and an injunction to prevent the deal from closing. The impetus for the move is the FTC’s concern that otherwise, Microsoft and Activision Blizzard may have rushed to complete the merger immediately.
Back in December, the Federal Trade Commission tried to legally challenge the acquisition through a lawsuit that expressed worry about Microsoft’s ability to suppress its competitors should the deal go through. Microsoft has of course held the opposite view, that bringing the two mega companies together will not only create more choices for the consumer, but that it already has a verifiable history of fostering collaboration with others. Microsoft has since made a big show about striking deals with various entities, promising to bring things like Call of Duty to those platforms for a set number of years, among other things.
As reported by The Verge, the FTC is back with a federal legal complaint that reads, in part, “Press reports began circulating suggesting that defendants were seriously contemplating closing the proposed acquisition despite the pending administrative litigation and the CMA orders.” In other words, the body believed that Microsoft and Activision Blizzard may have moved to complete the deal in spite of ongoing proceedings with the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority, which is set to hear an appeal from Microsoft in the week of July 24 after previously blocking the deal over concerns that it would “result in the most powerful operator in the fast-developing market for cloud gaming.”
The restraining order requested by the FTC would prevent Microsoft from closing the deal in the next two weeks, while the injunction would block the deal until the FTC’s legal challenge is completely resolved. Currently, Microsoft has a hearing with the FTC scheduled for August 2 about the deal, but the agency is clearly concerned that the tech giant may not wait around to address its reservations about the acquisition. “Both a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction are necessary because Microsoft and Activision have represented that they may consummate the proposed acquisition at any time,” reads the FTC complaint.
A U.S. judge must now rule on the matter of issuing the temporary restraining order, and Microsoft is making no secret of its desire to get this all resolved as quickly as possible. “We welcome the opportunity to present our case in federal court,” Microsoft vice chair and president Brad Smith said in a statement. “We believe accelerating the legal process in the US will ultimately bring more choice and competition to the market.”
Update 6/14/2023 11:43 p.m. ET: The federal judge overseeing the case has temporarily blocked the deal until the FTC’s request for an injunction can be ruled on. Microsoft now has until June 16 to make its case while regulators have until June 20 to respond. A hearing will then take place on June 22, with Microsoft prohibited from closing the acquisition of Activision Blizzard until at least five days after a ruling is issued.