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Canada "continuing to monitor" Activision deal, claims Microsoft filings contain "factual inaccuracies"

UPDATE: Microsoft responds, notes Canada's window to object now passed.

Artwork from Crash Bandicoot, Call of Duty, Tony Hawk, and Overwatch, displayed in four columns running left to right.
Image credit: Activision Blizzard

UPDATE 30/6/23: Microsoft has responded to Canada's statement last night issued by its Competition Bureau, released as legal proceedings brought by the US Federal Trade Commission were just wrapping up.

In short, Microsoft noted that Canada's window to meaningfully respond to the deal had now passed. Globally, only the US and UK stand opposed.

"We received notice from the Canada Competition Bureau that it would continue to monitor our acquisition of Activision Blizzard after the formal waiting period preventing the deal to close expired," a Microsoft spokesperson has said. "We continue to work with regulators around the world to address any remaining concerns."

This week's big courtroom battle between the FTC and Microsoft is expected to decide the fate of the latter's $68.7bn Activision Blizzard acquisition - which has been dragging on for over a year now. Defeat will see it squashed in Microsoft's biggest market and on its home turf. Victory will see the deal settled everywhere but the UK - leaving Microsoft with various options to proceed.

A decision on the FTC vs Microsoft trial is expected as soon as next week.

ORIGINAL STORY 29/6/23: While Microsoft argues with the Federal Trade Commission in the US over its proposed $69bn acquisition of Activision Blizzard, Canada moved to refute the Xbox maker's claims that, the FTC excluded, "all but one" regulator around the world is onboard with its deal - noting that Canada is still 'monitoring the transaction'.

As reported by The Verge, Canada's Competition Bureau has written to Judge Corley, who is currently presiding over the FTC's Activision Blizzard case in the US, to correct certain "factual inaccuracies" in Microsoft's court filings.

Microsoft had told the court that "every single worldwide regulator that has examined the deal other than the FTC has rejected" the theory it would remove Call of Duty from PlayStation should the acquisition go through, and that all regulators agreed "withholding COD from Sony would be unprofitable and is thus not a serious concern." It also claimed "all but one foreign regulator" (namely the UK's CMA) had cleared the transaction.

Newscast: This week's biggest headlines from the FTC vs Microsoft. Watch on YouTube

Canada's Competition Bureau disagrees with those three points, however, writing to Judge Corley to stress it had "communicated to Microsoft and Activision's Canadian counsel that the Bureau has concluded that the proposed merger is likely to result in a substantial prevention and/or lessening of competition with respect to gaming consoles and multigame subscription services (as well as cloud gaming)". It noted it had also told Microsoft "the Bureau is continuing to monitor the transaction".

While many regulators around the world have approved Microsoft's proposed deal - including Europe - outliers remain. Alongside the Canadian Competition Bureau's latest warning it still has concerns about the acquisition, the US Federal Trade Commission is currently fighting Microsoft in court to secure an injunction to block the deal ahead of its own internal deliberations.

Over in the UK, the Competition and Markets Authority has blocked the acquisition citing concerns around the cloud gaming sector. Microsoft is set to appeal that decision in July.

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