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FTC files to prevent Microsoft from buying Activision Blizzard

The Federal Trade Commission is asking the US courts to prevent Microsoft from acquiring Activision Blizzard while the government’s bigger case to block the merger plays out. The FTC originally filed a legal challenge to try to block Microsoft’s proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard in December, and is now seeking a temporary restraining order and injunction from a U.S. federal district court.

“Both a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction are necessary because Microsoft and Activision have stated that they may complete the proposed acquisition at any time,” the FTC’s complaint reads.

The FTC filed its complaint as Microsoft moves forward with its appeal against UK regulators’ decision to block the proposed acquisition. The timing, just weeks before the July 18 deal deadline, shows the FTC’s concern that Microsoft is preparing to complete the acquisition regardless of the UK bloc. European regulators gave the deal the go-ahead last month, allowing Microsoft to technically close without the UK and without a US court order preventing the deal.

“Press reports began circulating suggesting that defendants were seriously considering closing the proposed acquisition, despite the pending administrative litigation and CMA injunctions,” the FTC filing says. That, combined with a pending CMA appeal, could have forced the FTC to try to get a subpoena.

The US judge will now have to decide whether to issue a temporary restraining order (TO) to bar Microsoft from closing the deal for two weeks and a preliminary injunction that would prevent Microsoft from closing until the outcome of the FTC’s legal challenge. A piece of evidence hearing is scheduled for August 2, shortly after Microsoft’s UK hearing is scheduled.

If the FTC’s injunction is unsuccessful, Microsoft is eager to expedite the FTC case. “We welcome the opportunity to take our case to federal court,” Brad Smith, Microsoft vice chairman and president, said in a statement to The edge. “We believe that speeding up the legal process in the US will ultimately bring more choice and competition to the market.”

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