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U.S. antitrust regulators continue to circle Activision Blizzard’s proposed merger with Microsoft.
Earlier this month, the Federal Trade Commission asked the Santa Monica-based video game publisher to hand over “additional information and documentary material” as part of its ongoing review of the $69 billion deal, Activision noted in a regulatory filing on Monday. The filing also said the Seattle tech giant was complying with a similar request from the FTC.
While the two companies have until January 2023 to seal their marriage—a deadline that can twice be extended by three months, to July 2023 at the latest—the clock is ticking. And as Axios explained today, both Activision and Microsoft will face significant financial fallout if the deal collapses, whether one of the parties pulls out or regulators block the transaction. Activision would be on the hook for nearly $2.3 billion in termination fees, while Microsoft would owe Activision up to $3 billion.
Activision shareholders, meanwhile, will cast their votes on the proposed acquisition on April 28, with the results of that vote shared on May 4. As disclosed in Monday’s regulatory filing, Activision CEO Bobby Kotick urged shareholders to vote in favor of the merger, which would reward them to the tune of $95 per share. (Activision’s stock closed Tuesday’s trading at $79.30 per share—though the premium being offered by Microsoft hasn’t stopped some shareholders from suing against the deal.)
While legal experts told dot.LA in January that it was unlikely regulators would block the transaction on antitrust grounds, the FTC’s “second request” for additional information indicates that it’s putting the deal under closer scrutiny. Gordon Lang, who leads law firm Nixon Peabody’s antitrust practice, estimated that FTC and DOJ regulators file second requests in about 2% to 4% of all merger cases, with bigger transactions tending to draw more attention.
“There’s some evidence that as deal sizes become bigger, there tends to be more” of these requests, Lang said. If the FTC ends up giving the merger a thumbs-down, the parties could then either argue their case in court, or just call the whole thing off (as El Segundo-based Aerojet Rocketdyne and defense giant Lockheed Martin did earlier this year).
Amid heightened political pressure from big tech critics on Capitol Hill, executives at both Microsoft and Activision have looked to give the impression that they’re willing to foster competition—as evidenced by Microsoft’s recent decision to revise its app store policies to provide developers with more access. After witnessing how Apple wiggled out of its own legal battle with Epic Games over its allegedly monopolistic app store practices, you can that bet Microsoft took notes.
All that said, even if Microsoft and Activision do assuage U.S. regulators’ concerns, the deal is far from done and dusted: As Microsoft president Brad Smith told reporters last month, the company is seeking regulatory approval in 17 different jurisdictions around the world. — Samson Amore
Subject Raises Wants to Tackle Post-Pandemic Education
Formerly known as Emile Learning, Beverly Hills-based Subject wants to fill in the gaps for cash-strapped high schools by offering accredited video courses. On Tuesday, the startup announced both its name change and a new $29.4 million Series A funding round.
Messaging Is Getting a Web3 Makeover, Whether You Like It or Not
As startups attempt to blockchainify everything—gaming, travel, finance, you name it—newcomer Message Party is out to raise more than $2 million to bring “emojis, stickers, backgrounds, 3D avatars, AR filters" and more to online chatting.
Netflix Is Bringing a New Set of Games to Its Platform
Netflix is expanding further into video games with the upcoming release of three new mobile titles, including a zombie first-person shooter called “Into The Dead 2: Unleashed.”
WME’s Newest Clients Are A Pair Of Bored Ape NFTs
The Beverly Hills-based talent agency signed Escapeplan, a DJ and producer duo comprised of two apes from Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC)—a popular digital artwork collection of 10,000 non-fungible tokens (NFTs). Bored Ape NFT holders own the underlying art and can commercialize it.
What We're Reading Elsewhere...
- Disney employees walk out to protest the company's handing of Florida's "Don't Say Gay" bill.
- UCLA gets a $5 million grant to translate lab research to clinical settings.
- Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC) partners with Calabasas-based TicketManager.
- Two L.A.-based cannabis operations, Crypto Cannabis Club and Secret Sesh LA, announce separate NFT offerings.
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