Nov 23 (Reuters) – The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is likely to file an antitrust lawsuit to block Microsoft Corp’s ( MSFT.O ) $69 billion takeover bid for video game publisher Activision Blizzard Inc ( ATVI.O ), Politico reported on Wednesday, citing people familiar with the matter.
A lawsuit challenging the deal is not guaranteed, and the FTC’s four commissioners have yet to vote out a complaint or meet with lawyers for the companies, the report said, adding that the FTC staff reviewing the deal are skeptical of the companies’ arguments.
The FTC did not immediately respond to requests for comment from Reuters.
“We are committed to continuing to work cooperatively with regulators around the globe to allow the transaction to proceed, but won’t hesitate to fight to defend the transaction if required,” an Activision Blizzard spokesperson said. Any suggestion that the transaction could lead to anticompetitive effects is “completely absurd,” the spokesperson added.
Shares of Activision fell about 2% in extended trading after closing 1% higher.
Microsoft, maker of the Xbox game console, announced in January the deal to buy Activision, the maker of “Call of Duty” and “Candy Crush” games, in the biggest gaming industry deal in history as global technology giants staked their claims to a virtual future.
Microsoft is betting on the acquisition to help it compete better with video game leaders Tencent (0700.HK) and Sony (6758.T).
The deal is also facing scrutiny outside the US The EU opened a full-scale investigation earlier this month. The EU competition enforcer said it would decide by March 23, 2023, whether to clear or block the deal.
Britain’s antitrust watchdog in September said it would launch a full-scale probe.
The acquisition could damage the industry if Microsoft refused to give rivals access to Activision’s best-selling games, Britain’s antitrust regulator has said.
The deal has drawn criticism from Sony, maker of the Playstation console, citing Microsoft’s control of games like “Call of Duty.”
“Sony, as the industry leader, says it is worried about ‘Call of Duty,’ but we’ve said we are committed to making the same game available on the same day on both Xbox and PlayStation,” Microsoft President and Vice Chair Brad Smith has said.
A spokesperson for Microsoft said: “We are prepared to address the concerns of regulators, including the FTC, and Sony to ensure the deal closes with confidence. We’ll still trail Sony and Tencent in the market after the deal closes, and together Activision and Xbox will benefit gamers and developers and make the industry more competitive.”
Reporting by Tiyashi Dattaa and Mrinmay Dey in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Leslie Adler
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