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Microsoft wins latest legal battle against FTC over Activision Blizzard acquisition

The Microsoft and Activision Blizzard logos

Microsoft has been named as the victor in its latest legal battle against the US Federal Trade Commission. After a five-day hearing in late June, Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley denied the FTC's request for a preliminary injunction that would have kept Microsoft from closing the $69 billion deal to acquire game publisher Activision Blizzard.

The Verge reports that in her decision, Judge Corley stated Microsoft had made a number of concessions to acquire Activision Blizzard "in writing, in public, and in court". She added:

This Court’s responsibility in this case is narrow. It is to decide if, notwithstanding these current circumstances, the merger should be halted—perhaps even terminated—pending resolution of the FTC administrative action. For the reasons explained, the Court finds the FTC has not shown a likelihood it will prevail on its claim this particular vertical merger in this specific industry may substantially lessen competition.

Microsoft president Brad Smith posted a statement on Twitter following the judge's ruling.

We’re grateful to the Court in San Francisco for this quick and thorough decision and hope other jurisdictions will continue working towards a timely resolution. As we’ve demonstrated consistently throughout this process, we are committed to working creatively and collaboratively to address regulatory concerns.

The FTC could still appeal the judge's decision and has until July 14 at 11:59 pm Pacific time to do so. Assuming the appeal is not made, the only other issue Microsoft has with buying Activision Blizzard is the UK Competition and Markets Authority, which decided to block the purchase in that country in late April. Microsoft appealed that decision, and that appeal is scheduled to be heard by the UK Competiton Appeals Tribunal in late July.

There are some rumors that Microsoft could close the deal before its deadline and ignore the CMA's ruling. However, with the appeal now scheduled for just a few weeks from now, it's more likely Microsoft and Activision Blizzard will have talks to extend that deadline.

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