U.S. appeals court refuses FTC request to pause Microsoft deal for Activision


(Reuters) -A U.S. appeals court on Friday rejected the Federal Trade Commission’s request to pause Microsoft’s $69 billion purchase of “Call of Duty” maker Activision Blizzard.

The appeals court decision removes one of the few remaining hurdles stopping Xbox maker Microsoft from closing the deal and expanding its gaming business.

The FTC had also asked Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley of the U.S. District Court in northern California for a similar stay but she rejected that request late on Thursday.

The FTC did not return an immediate request for comment.

Microsoft President Brad Smith said, “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.”

The deal, the largest in the history of the videogame industry, still needs to be approved in Britain.

The merger agreement between Microsoft and Activision will expire on July 18. After July 18, either company will be free to walk away from the deal unless they negotiate an extension.

In the UK, the Competition and Markets Authority opposes the transaction on concerns about the impact on competition in cloud gaming. On Friday it received a “detailed and complex” new proposal from Microsoft, and extended its deadline for a final ruling to Aug. 29, although it said it would aim to do it as soon as possible.

In the United States, the FTC had argued the deal would hurt consumers whether they played video games on consoles or had subscriptions because Microsoft would have an incentive to shut out rivals like Sony Group. Microsoft responded to that by offering 10-year licenses to rivals.

But on Tuesday, Judge Corley ruled the deal was legal under antitrust law and declined the FTC request to slap a preliminary injunction on it to give the FTC time to take it before an internal FTC judge in August.

(Reporting by Diane Bartz and Chris Sanders; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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