MSFT

Activision Shares Gap Higher After Microsoft Levels Up Deal Terms

After numerous delays in its attempts to acquire Activision Blizzard Inc. (NASDAQ: ATVI), Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT) finally blinked, agreeing to sell cloud streaming rights for all current and new Activision Blizzard PC and console games released over the next 15 years to French game publisher Ubisoft. The rights will be in perpetuity, and apply to markets outside the European Economic Area.

That doesn’t mean the deal is done. 

The U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority has opened an investigation into the restructured transaction, with an October 18 deadline for a decision. 

Microsoft announced new details of the Activision deal in a blog post by company vice chair and president Brad Smith. 

If it feels like you’ve been hearing about this deal for a long time, it’s because you have. 

Microsoft Made Offer In January 2022

Microsoft, which makes the Xbox game consoles, announced its intention to acquire Activision for $69 billion in January 2022. Activision publishes the Call of Duty series of games, which are popular worldwide and have achieved blockbuster status. 

The transaction has gotten the nod from antitrust regulators in 40 countries worldwide. Those include European Union countries and the U.S., where the Federal Trade Commission lost a bid to block the deal. 

The agreement to sell streaming rights to Ubisoft was a concession to U.K. regulators. 

In his blog post, Smith said Microsoft has “endeavored to earn regulatory approval for the transaction, addressing concerns when raised, including by entering into binding legal commitments to bring Call of Duty to rival consoles and Activision Blizzard games to rival cloud streaming platforms.”

He added that under the restructured transaction, “Microsoft will not be in a position either to release Activision Blizzard games exclusively on its cloud streaming service — Xbox Cloud Gaming — or to exclusively control the licensing terms of Activision Blizzard games for rival services.” 

Deal Value Higher Now

Analysts now value the deal at $75 billion, which includes additional payments Microsoft is making to Activision due to deadline extensions. 

According to some reports, Microsoft is continuing to make these incremental payments, which are tied to a deal closing date, because it doesn’t want Activision to back out or seek a new suitor.  

In a public memo to employees, “The next step in the UK for the Microsoft deal,” Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick wrote, “For us, nothing substantially changes with the addition of this divestiture: our merger agreement with Microsoft, closing deadline, and the cash consideration to be paid for each Activision Blizzard share at closing remain the same.”

He added that Activision’s integration management team “is hard at work to ensure we are prepared for a smooth close. 

He also said, “This has been a longer journey than expected.” 

Activision Still Trading Below Offer Price

Activision shares gapped up 1.04% on August 22 following the news. The stock closed at $91.66, below Microsoft’s offer price of $95. 

Due to uncertainties that have plagued the deal, Activision Blizzard shares never formed the narrow trading range that you typically see in a company whose acquisition is all but certain. 

The Activision Blizzard chart illustrates that: You can see a series of ups-and-downs since a big gap higher on January 18, 2022. It’s never closed that gap, but you can see investors’ indecision about where the stock should be priced.

"Not A Green Light"

Given the price gap between where the stock closed on August 22, and Microsoft’s $95 offer price, there’s still room to take advantage of that differential. Investors haven’t yet taken full advantage because uncertainty remains: As U.K. regulator Sarah Cardell said following Microsoft’s revised offer, “This is not a green light. We will carefully and objectively assess the details of the restructured deal and its impact on competition, including in light of third-party comments.”

Microsoft stock, meanwhile, closed 0.18% higher on August 22, in lighter-than-average trading volume. 

Microsoft stock has declined 6.17% in the past month, but the stock still has a year-to-date return of 35.07%.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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