A US judge late Tuesday granted the request of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to temporarily block the acquisition of video game maker Activision Blizzard by Microsoft Corp. and to hold a hearing next week.
U.S. District Judge Edward Davila scheduled a two-day hearing on the FTC’s request for a preliminary injunction for June 22-23 in San Francisco. Without a court order, Microsoft could have closed the $69 billion deal as early as Friday.
The FTC, which enforces antitrust law, asked an administrative judge in early December to block the transaction. An evidence hearing in the administrative proceeding will begin on August 2.
Based on the hearing at the end of June, the federal court will decide whether a preliminary injunction – which will remain in effect during the administrative review of the case – is necessary. The FTC sought the temporary hold on Monday.
Davila said the temporary restraining order issued Tuesday was “necessary to maintain the status quo while the complaint is pending (and) to preserve the ability of this court to order effective relief in the event it is determined that a provisional injunction is warranted and to preserve the FTC’s ability to obtain an effective permanent remedy in the event it prevails in the pending administrative proceeding.”
Microsoft and Activision must file legal arguments against a preliminary injunction by June 16; the FTC is due to respond by June 20.
Activision, which said Monday that the FTC’s decision to seek a federal injunction was “a welcome update and one that speeds up the legal process,” declined to comment Tuesday.
Microsoft said on Tuesday “speeding up the legal process in the US will ultimately bring more choice and competition to the gaming market. A temporary restraining order makes sense until we can receive a decision from the court, which is swift.
The FTC declined to comment.
Davila said that upon closure, the bar will remain in place until at least five days after the court rules on the request for a temporary injunction.
The FTC has argued that the transaction would give Microsoft’s video game console Xbox exclusive access to Activision games, leaving Nintendo consoles and Sony Group Corp’s PlayStation out in the cold.
Microsoft’s bid to acquire “Call of Duty” video game maker was approved by the EU in May, but UK competition authorities blocked the acquisition in April.
Microsoft has said the deal would benefit gamers and game companies alike, and has offered to sign a legally binding consent decree with the FTC to supply “Call of Duty” games to rivals, including Sony, for a decade.
The case reflects the muscular approach to antitrust enforcement by the administration of US President Joe Biden.
(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and was published from a syndicated news agency feed – Reuters)