The US Federal Trade Commission has announced its intention to move forward with its administrative case against Microsoft’s planned acquisition of Activision Blizzard, despite its original push to block the deal being quashed in July 2023.
After a brief pause in proceedings, the FTC has announced it will continue with an in-house trial, in an effort to block the acquisition – which it claims will have a negative impact on competition in the global games market. “The FTC continues to believe this deal is a threat to competition,” Victoria Graham, FTC spokesperson said. “Our current focus is on the federal appeal process.”
While the FTC’s request to block the deal was initially denied, the organisation did file to appeal the decision following the verdict, to have the case re-assessed. Per analysis from Bloomberg, this appears to be a rare case for the FTC, which has typically dropped challenges in the event of a loss in federal court.
The FTC’s in-house hearings are expected to begin around 21 days after the US Court of Appeals has handed down an opinion on the FTC’s appeal – but the outcome of this appeal is currently unclear. Regardless, it appears the FTC is pushing ahead with its plans.
Given the timeline of the Microsoft acquisition of Activision Blizzard – which is expected to close on 18 October 2023 – it could be that the FTC’s challenge will extend past this deadline. Whether the in-house trial will have an impact on these fast-moving plans remains to be seen.
Recently, the Microsoft acquisition of Activision Blizzard cleared one of its final hurdles, with the UK Competition and Markets Authority handing it provisional approval after a long back-and-forth appeals process. At the time, it seemed to be the final step in the acquisition process – but now, the future appears more uncertain.
Speaking on the latest events, an Activision spokesperson told Bloomberg and other media outlets that the company was already focussing on its next steps, beyond the FTC challenge. “We’re focused on working with Microsoft toward closing. How the FTC uses limited taxpayer dollars is its decision,” Joseph Christinat said.
“We still anticipate that we will close the transaction by October 18, and we have full confidence in our case and the deal’s benefits to gamers and competition,” Rebecca Dougherty, a Microsoft spokesperson said.
Stay tuned for the latest developments in this ongoing case.