British Appeal Tribunal Rejects CMA's Motion to Stall Microsoft & Activision Deal Hearing

Published: June 29, 2023 2:56 PM /


Art representing the acquisition of Activision Blizzard by Microsoft

While the legal battle between Microsoft and the FTC about the proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard is going on in the United States, the British antitrust regulator CMA isn't sitting idle.

Today the CAT (Competition Appeal Tribunal) has published a ruling on an application by the CMA to delay the upcoming hearing, scheduled to start on July 28. The substantive hearing will serve to rule in favor or against Microsoft's appeal against the CMA's decision to block the merger. During the case management conferences, the parties had already argued about the date, with Microsoft hoping to have the hearing as soon as possible and the CMA trying to stall. 

According to today's document, yesterday (June 28) the CMA applied without warning for a delay of the hearing to October 2.

The CMA argued that it has not managed to find legal counsel with previous experience in this matter. First Treasury Counsel will take over, but according to the CMA, they can't prepare the case and present it effectively in the currently set timeframe. The regulator complains that Microsoft's counsel has been instructed on the case for a far longer period, so the parties won't be on equal footing. 

The tribunal has "carefully considered" the CMA's application overnight and has rejected it. The order mentions that the CMA had ample time to predict that an appeal would come, and has "not paid sufficient heed to the true public interest in this case – which is the swift resolution of Microsoft’s Notice." On top of that, the Tribunal argues that the regulator has made the application indefensible late and has not explored - either with Microsoft or the Tribunal itself -any way that could ease its burden.

We also hear that the Tribunal believes that many of the CMA's problems appear to be self-induced. Ultimately they have a month to prepare, and it should be sufficient to prepare for the hearing. As such, the panel ruled unanimously to reject the application for a delay.

In the meanwhile, on the other side of the ocean, the FTC has recently obtained a temporary restraining order against the acquisition and a federal court is holding a hearing to decide on the possible preliminary injunction. You can read our summaries of the first daysecond day, third day, and fourth day (Bobby Kotick and Satya Nadella's testimonies) of the hearing. 


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