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British anti-trust watchdog delays Microsoft-Activision merger decision

Britain's competition watchdog announced Friday it was extending a July 18 deadline by which it was required by law to make final an order blocking Microsoft's acquisition of "Call of Duty" maker Activision. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI
Britain's competition watchdog announced Friday it was extending a July 18 deadline by which it was required by law to make final an order blocking Microsoft's acquisition of "Call of Duty" maker Activision. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI

July 14 (UPI) -- Britain's anti-trust regulator said Friday it had pushed back a decision on whether to reverse its interim ban on Microsoft's $69 billion takeover of British gaming giant Activision by six weeks to allow it more time to consider an appeal by Microsoft.

The Competition and Markets Authority, which issued a blocking order in May on grounds the deal would reinforce Microsoft's dominance in cloud computing, needed the extra time to properly weigh Microsoft's "detailed and complex" overture arguing material changes in circumstances and special reasons mean merger should be approved, the watchdog said in a bulletin.

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The CMA said there was "insufficient time "for full and proper consideration of Microsoft's submission on the proposed Order" with the statutory period within which it must make the interim banning order final expiring Tuesday.

A year-long investigation that led to the interim ban concluded that gaining control of Activision's Call of Duty, Overwatch and World of Warcraft franchises would give Microsoft an unfair advantage in the cloud gaming market and limit the ability of developers to offer games on non-Windows operating systems and consoles.

The merger has received the green light from the European Union, but cannot proceed without approval from regulators in Britain and the United States where the Federal Trade Commission on Wednesday filed to appeal a federal court's refusal to grant it a temporary injunction stopping Microsoft from completing the deal.

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Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley's 53-page ruling Tuesday found the FTC had failed to provide sufficient proof the merger would reduce either competition or access to Activision games on other platforms.

"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," wrote Corley, adding that the evidence indicated the tie-up would in fact broaden the availability of Activision content to consumers.

Under the deal, Microsoft will pay Activision shareholders $95 a share to acquire Activision.

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