On Tuesday, a US federal judge temporarily blocked Microsoft from completing its $69 billion acquisition of gaming giant Activision Blizzard. Judge Edward Davila ruled that maintaining the status quo is necessary while the court considers a longer-term injunction requested by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC had asked the court to prevent Microsoft from finalizing the deal as it considers regulatory action. The ruling prohibits Microsoft from proceeding with the acquisition until the court decides whether to issue a preliminary injunction. A hearing is scheduled for June 22 and June 23 to hear evidence in the case.
The US government, through the FTC, sought the preliminary injunction to prevent the companies from completing the deal before a July 18 deadline. The FTC plans to hold a hearing in August to argue the merits of the acquisition. If the court grants the restraining order, it would halt the deal before the regulatory process concludes.
Microsoft President Brad Smith welcomed the opportunity to present their case in federal court and expressed belief that expediting the legal process would ultimately bring more choice and competition to the market. The European Union has approved the deal, but the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority blocked it in April, citing concerns about competition in cloud gaming. The FTC sued to block the acquisition in December, citing concerns over competition, and the case is now being considered by the court.
Lina Khan, an antitrust academic and advocate for breaking up large tech firms, leads the FTC. The regulator has been investigating companies like Meta (formerly Facebook), Amazon, and Google for potential antitrust violations. The US Department of Justice has also filed lawsuits against Google, alleging antitrust violations in online search and advertising.