UK watchdog halts legal battle with Microsoft over £55bn Activision takeover

The UK’s competitions watchdog has said it is willing to work with Microsoft over its planned acquisition of video game company Activision Blizzard, which could halt an impending legal battle.

It comes shortly after a US judge handed Microsoft a victory by saying it would not stop the impending 69 billion US dollar (£55 billion) takeover.

The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) previously blocked the high-profile acquisition of Activision Blizzard, the company behind Call Of Duty, World Of Warcraft, Candy Crush and Guitar Hero, among others.

The regulator insisted that such a deal would give Microsoft an unfair advantage in the cloud computer game market.

But it was met with a fierce response from Microsoft, with the president calling the decision his company’s “darkest day” in the UK, and saying it suggested the European Union was more attractive for scaling businesses than Britain.

Activision Blizzard said it would work “aggressively” with Microsoft to reverse the decision through an appeal, with a tribunal hearing scheduled for later this month.

But on Tuesday, the CMA said it was willing to consider ways to reshape the tech giant’s takeover, following the US court ruling.

A CMA spokesperson said: “We stand ready to consider any proposals from Microsoft to restructure the transaction in a way that would address the concerns set out in our final report.

“In order to be able to prioritise work on these proposals, Microsoft and Activision have agreed with the CMA that a stay of litigation in the UK would be in the public interest and all parties have made a joint submission to the Competition Appeal Tribunal to this effect.”

Microsoft said in a statement: “While we ultimately disagree with the CMA’s concerns, we are considering how the transaction might be modified in order to address those concerns in a way that is acceptable to the CMA.”

A five-day court hearing in San Francisco ended late last month. It showcased testimony by Microsoft and Activision Blizzard who pledged to keep Call Of Duty available to people who played it on consoles, namely Sony’s PlayStation, that compete with Microsoft’s Xbox.

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