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US Judge Temporarily Halts Microsoft's Acquisition of Activision Blizzard Amid FTC Lawsuit

San Francisco, USA - US District Judge Edward Davila has granted the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) request to temporarily halt Microsoft's acquisition of video game maker Activision Blizzard. The judge's decision, made late on Tuesday, puts a hold on the $69 billion deal and prevents Microsoft from finalizing the acquisition as early as Friday. Judge Davila has also scheduled a two-day evidentiary hearing on the FTC's request for a preliminary injunction, which will take place on June 22-23 in San Francisco.

The FTC, responsible for enforcing antitrust law, had initially sought to block the transaction in December, and an evidential hearing in the administrative proceeding is set to commence on August 2. The upcoming June hearing will play a crucial role in determining whether a preliminary injunction should be issued, which would last for the duration of the administrative review.

Judge Davila emphasized that the temporary restraining order is necessary to maintain the status quo while the complaint is pending. This ensures that appropriate relief can be ordered if a preliminary injunction is deemed necessary and preserves the FTC's ability to secure a permanent remedy if it prevails in the ongoing administrative proceeding. Microsoft and Activision have been given until June 16 to submit legal arguments opposing the preliminary injunction, with the FTC having until June 20 to respond.

Activision expressed its support for the FTC's decision to seek a federal court order and its positive impact on expediting the legal process. However, the company refrained from providing further comments on Tuesday. Microsoft, on the other hand, stated that expediting the legal process in the US would introduce more choice and competition to the gaming market. The company believes that a temporary restraining order is a sensible measure until the court reaches a decision, acknowledging the court's swift progress in handling the case.

Judge Davila highlighted that the restriction on finalizing the deal will remain in effect for a minimum of five days following the court's decision on the preliminary injunction request.

The FTC argues that Microsoft's acquisition of Activision would grant exclusive rights to Activision games on the Xbox console, potentially excluding Nintendo consoles and Sony's PlayStation from accessing these popular titles.

While the European Union approved Microsoft's bid to acquire Activision in May, British competition authorities blocked the takeover in April. Microsoft asserts that the deal would benefit gamers and gaming companies alike, offering to sign a legally binding consent decree with the FTC to ensure the availability of Activision's games, including the popular "Call of Duty" franchise, to competitors such as Sony for a decade.

As the legal proceedings unfold, both Microsoft and Activision will closely monitor the court's decisions and continue to cooperate with the FTC in addressing concerns related to the acquisition. The outcome of the June hearing will play a significant role in shaping the future of the deal and its implications for the gaming industry.

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