Microsoft's $69B Activision Deal Gets a Breather

Deadline to close acquisition with game maker is extended until Oct. 18
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 19, 2023 10:04 AM CDT
Microsoft's $69B Activision Deal Gets a Breather
Scenes from "Candy Crush Saga" by Activision Blizzard, and "Crash Team Rumble" from Activision Publishing, are shown in New York, Wednesday, June 21, 2023. A judge handed Microsoft a big victory on Tuesday, declining to stop its $69 billion takeover of video game maker Activision Blizzard.   (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

The deadline for Microsoft's $69 billion acquisition of video game company Activision Blizzard has been extended as the companies seek to close a deal that has been vexed by US regulators, as well as by UK's Competition and Markets Authority. Microsoft believes that pushing back the deadline to Oct. 18 will give enough time to work through the remaining regulatory issues. "We are confident about our prospects for getting this deal across the finish line," says company president Brad Smith. The extension comes with a heftier, $3.5 billion termination fee should the deal be called off, and a number of other new agreements. Both Microsoft and Activision had agreed in the deal announced 18 months earlier that either party could walk away from the merger if it hadn't closed by Tuesday, triggering Microsoft to potentially have to pay a $3 billion breakup fee unless both sides decided to renegotiate.

"Given global regulatory approvals and the companies' confidence that CMA now recognizes there are remedies available to meet their concerns in the UK, the Activision Blizzard and Microsoft boards of directors have authorized the companies not to terminate the deal until after October 18," an Activision Blizzard rep said Wednesday, per the AP. "We're confident in our next steps and that our deal will quickly close." Microsoft spent the past week working to resolve longstanding legal challenges from antitrust enforcers in the US and UK, who argued the merger would harm competition. The deal was effectively clear to go in the US this week, especially after the Supreme Court decided against hearing a last-ditch effort to block the takeover from gamers who have described themselves as fans of popular Activision titles Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, Overwatch, and Diablo.

But the UK remained an obstacle, though one that's likely to be surmounted. The CMA initially rejected the deal, but later pushed back its final decision so it can consider Microsoft's argument that new developments mean its acquisition can go through. A judge on Monday conditionally approved a joint request from Microsoft and the British regulator to delay upcoming proceedings, enabling both sides to further negotiate. Daniel Beard, an attorney representing Microsoft in the UK case, told the judge Monday he was grateful the process is moving quickly because "the UK is the only impediment to closing and speed is of the essence."

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Among the additional information sought by the judge was Microsoft's Sunday announcement of a deal addressing concerns from top rival Sony, maker of the PlayStation console that's a competitor to Microsoft's Xbox. Microsoft said it signed a deal with Sony to keep Call of Duty on PlayStation for at least 10 years. The US Federal Trade Commission hasn't said if it will continue to fight the takeover after a federal judge and a federal appeals court both denied its attempt to stop the deal from closing. The FTC, which has argued the deal will harm competition, could still continue a case set for the agency's in-house judge in August, but that wouldn't preclude the two companies from completing the merger beforehand. (More Microsoft stories.)

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