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FTC has been granted its restraining order to keep Microsoft from buying Activision Blizzard

The Microsoft and Activision Blizzard logos

Microsoft's plan to buy game publisher Activision Blizzard for $69 billion has taken another turn, and not for the better. The US District Court of Northern California has granted the Federal Trade Commission's earlier request to put a temporary restraining order on Microsoft so it cannot complete the deal before its deadline.

Today's ruling (via The Verge) states that the deal cannot be completed until either a date set by the court or "after 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time on the fifth business day after the Court rules on the FTC’s request for a preliminary injunction”, whichever date happens to be later.

The court ruling also adds that Microsoft and Activision Blizzard should "prevent any of their officers, directors, domestic or foreign agents, divisions, subsidiaries, affiliates, partnerships, or joint ventures from closing or consummating, directly or indirectly, the proposed transaction or a substantially similar transaction."

The next step is a hearing for a preliminary injunction against closing the deal, which will be held either on June 22 or 23. If the court rules in favor of the FTC to grant that injunction, that means the US regulator will have the chance to convince a judge that Microsoft's planned purchase of Activision Blizzard should be blocked without having to worry that the two companies will go ahead and close the deal.

Officially Microsoft must complete its acquisition plans by July 18, unless it can quickly make another deal with Activision Blizzard to delay it beyond that date. If such a deal cannot be made, Microsoft will have to move on and pay the publisher a breakup fee to the tune of $3 billion.

Microsoft has already paid the FTC $20 million this month in a separate case. The FTC claimed Microsoft's Xbox service violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act by collecting personal information from kids without getting permission from their parents and retaining that personal info.

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