Tuesday, January 24, 2023

New Zealand regulator postpones Microsoft-ActivisionBlizzard decision from February 3 to April 28

The New Zealand Commerce Commission (NZ ComCom or NZCC) has pushed back its deadline for a decision on Microsoft's acquisition of Activision Blizzard King (NASDAQ:ATVI) from February 3, 2023 (next week's Friday) to April 28, 2023.

This does not tell us anything about what the decision will ultimately be. It appears to me that in the current environment, New Zealand's antitrust agency prefers to wait and see what will happen in other jurisdictions, particularly with a view to potential remedies such as a ten-year Call of Duty license to Sony. The NZCC has now sort of synced its schedule with those of at least two other jurisdictions:

  • In November, the European Commission extended its deadline to April 11, 2023.

  • The UK Competition & Market Authority's statutory deadline is April 26, 2023.

  • Some other jurisdictions such as Australia and China are also widely expected to reach decisions either later this quarter or during the second quarter, but no precise dates are known.

I published a timeline chart two weeks ago, which I intend to update as soon as Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California has set a new schedule for the briefing process concerning some class-action lawyers' motion for a preliminary injunction. In a week from today, Microsoft and the plaintiffs will propose a schedule (they may or may not agree on the same filing deadlines) further to a recent court order. Microsoft promised Judge Corley not to close the deal before March 31 at the earliest. That fact may also have been part of the consideration when the NZCC decided on the postponement announced today.

The competition authorities of four countries have already granted unconditional clearance to the transaction. In chronological order: Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Serbia, and Chile (where a survey of Call of Duty gamers produced some interesting results).

In the United States, Microsoft is entitled to discovery of third parties with relevant information--above all, Sony--both in the Federal Trade Commission's adjudicative proceeding as well as the private antitrust litigation in San Francisco. Yesterday a Sony motion became public. It indicates that Sony is obstructing Microsoft's request for documents and/or fact witnesses. On Friday (January 27), Sony will bring a motion to quash or limit Microsoft's subpoena unless some solution can be worked out in the meantime.