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Microsoft plans swift end to FTC's Activision Blizzard deal concerns - report

If CMA approves deal today.

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

Later today, the UK's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is set to give its verdict on Microsoft's proposed $69bn acquisition of Activision Blizzard.

While this may give a strong indication as to whether the merger is approved globally, the US Federal Trade Commision (FTC) still has the hearing for its complaint to stop the merger filed back in December. That's set for 2nd August, after Microsoft's 18th July merger deadline expires.

As such, Microsoft is planning a swift end to the FTC's deal concerns, reports the New York Post.

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Microsoft has made certain concessions in order to win approval from both the CMA and the European Commission, which will give its decision on 22nd May. Indeed, the CMA stated provisionally that the takeover "will not result in a substantial lessening of competition in relation to console gaming in the UK", though concerns around cloud gaming remain.

Approval from both would put the FTC on the back foot.

Should Microsoft gain approval in Europe, its plan is to close the merger for $95 a share, a source told the New York Post.

Earlier this week, Activision was trading at $85.63. That's expected to jump to near $95 should the merger be approved, or fall to $75 should Microsoft abandon the deal, said a trader.

However, the FTC could still file for a temporary injunction from a US Federal court to prevent the merger closing, though this could fail depending on today's result.

"By law the FTC only needs to raise serious, doubtful questions about a merger to get an injunction," a DC antitrust source told the New York Post. "But as a practical matter the judge is evaluating the merits of the case.

"If Microsoft makes a deal with the Brits and the European Union it can say that antitrust concerns are resolved, and if you're a judge that's not a helpful fact for the FTC."

Should Microsoft miss its 18th July merger deadline, it will owe Activision a $3bn termination fee, according to sources. FTC internal hearings usually take over a year to conclude.

"The FTC was trying to kill the deal with process," a source told the New York Post, explaining that delays helped the regulator.

After today, the FTC will likely either negotiate a settlement with Microsoft in a similar vein to the UK and EU deals, or continue pursuing the case in its internal court to prevent the merger - though this could take over a year.

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