Last minute appeal to kill historic $69 billion Microsoft-Activision deal is denied – here’s what it means

Innovation

The Federal Trade Commission lost its appeal challenging a ruling that gave Microsoft free range to finally acquire Activision Blizzard, the end of a lengthy regulatory battle that threatened to kill the proposed $69 billion acquisition.
FTC To Appeal Microsoft Activision Case

Microsoft first announced its intent to acquire Activision Blizzard in January 2022. (Photo by Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

NurPhoto via Getty Images

Key Takeaways
  • The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied the FTC’s appeal, meaning Microsoft can carry through with its acquisition in the coming days if it can solve its final dilemma with the U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority.
  • Microsoft must resolve concerns from the CMA by a July 18 deadline set forth in its terms to close the deal with Activision Blizzard—otherwise, Microsoft will have to request an extension from Activision Blizzard or pay a whopping $3 billion breakup fee.
  • Assuming Microsoft can quell the CMA’s concerns, the tech giant can close the deal after 11:59 p.m. Pacific time tonight, when a temporary restraining order on the deal expires.
  • Microsoft and the CMA agreed to pause litigation this week to negotiate modifications to the deal that would allow the regulatory body to approve it—negotiations that contributed to the CMA’s decision to move back its deadline for a final order from July 18 to August 29, despite Microsoft and Activision Blizzard’s self-imposed July 18 deadline.
Key Background

Microsoft has publicly pursued the acquisition of Activision Blizzard for more than a year-and-a-half now, eyeing the company known for popular game franchises such as Call of Duty, World of Warcraft and Overwatch. Microsoft has faced regulatory scrutiny from multiple bodies around the world, with some, such as the FTC, levying concerns that its acquisition of the video game company would suppress competitors such as Sony—the developer of the PlayStation 5.

When a judge ruled in favour of the deal on Tuesday by denying the FTC’s request for an injunction, she cited the company’s vow to keep Call of Duty on the PlayStation for the next decade and its intentions to introduce the game to the Nintendo Switch as reasons why competition should not be concerned with the acquisition’s closure. The FTC filed a notice to appeal Wednesday.

Crucial Quote

“We appreciate the Ninth Circuit’s swift response denying the FTC’s motion to further delay the deal. This brings us another step closer to the finish line in this marathon of global regulatory reviews,” Microsoft vice chairman and president Brad Smith told Forbes.

Tangent

Activision Blizzard will be removed from its Nasdaq 100 stock index on July 17. The Nasdaq cited the deal’s “highly probable” chances of being complete as the reason for the removal.

This article was first published on forbes.com and all figures are in USD.

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