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Acquisition of Microsoft Activision: no ‘substantial’ settlement talks with US FTC, says lawyer

There are no “substantial” settlement talks underway between the administration of US President Joe Biden and Microsoft to resolve a legal dispute over the Xbox maker’s $69 billion (approximately Rs. 5,71,900 crore) bid for gamesmaker Activision Blizzard, a Federal Trade Commission attorney said Tuesday.

The FTC, which enforces antitrust law, asked a judge in early December to block the transaction, arguing that it would give Microsoft’s Xbox exclusive access to Activision games, leaving Nintendo consoles and Sony’s PlayStation out in the cold.

FTC attorney James Weingarten said during a brief pre-trial telephone hearing that no “substantial” settlement talks were underway between the two sides.

Microsoft argues the deal would benefit gamers and gaming companies alike, offering 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. But antitrust experts say the FTC faces an uphill battle to convince a judge to block the deal, due to the voluntary concessions Microsoft made to allay fears it could dominate the gaming market.

FTC Administrative Judge Michael Chappell will rule on the deal after hearings scheduled for August 2023. Both parties can then appeal to the same FTC commissioners who voted to accept the challenge, and then to a US Court of Appeals.

The deal is being examined by the European Union, which must decide on March 23 whether to approve or block the deal.

© Thomson Reuters 2023

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