Activision Stock Jumps As Warren Buffett Reveals $5.6 Billion Stake Ahead of Microsoft Takeover

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Updated at 9:44 am EST

Activision Blizzard  (ATVI) – Get Activision Blizzard, Inc. Report shares moved higher Monday after Warren Buffett’ told investors that his Berkshire Hathaway investors group has built a 9.5% stake in the video-game maker ahead of its planned $69 billion takeover by Microsoft  (MSFT) – Get Microsoft Corporation Report.

Buffett’s increased stake, now worth around $5.6 billion, suggests he thinks the deal will receive regulatory and antitrust approval, although he told attendees at the Berkshire AGM on Saturday that he “doesn’t know what the Justice Department will do.”

The Department of Justice is looking into allegations of insider trading in Activision shares, and issued a grand jury subpoena to the group last month, following option purchases by three different investors — Barry Diller, David Geffen and Alexander von Furstenberg — just prior to when Microsoft’s $69 billion takeover was announced in January.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission is also reviewing the deal, Activision said in March, while Microsoft is seeking approvals in at least 17 different jurisdictions before the deal can be closed sometime next year. 

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Some investors are betting that Microsoft’s $95 per share deal won’t be completed, with concerns linked to the takeover increasing following last week’s weaker-than-expected first quarter earnings, which showed a 14.5% decline in monthly active users to 372 million, taking in-game billings down 24.6% to $1.01 billion amid weaker-than-expected demand for its Call of Duty: Vanguard release.

Activision shares were marked 2.9% higher in early Monday trading to change hands at $77.79 each, extending their year-to-date gain to around 15.2%.

Activision, which publishes ‘World of Warcraft’, ‘Call of Duty’ and ‘Candy Crush’ said its $69 billion sale will close in the second quarter of next year.

“In light of the proposed transaction with Microsoft, and as is customary during the pendency of an acquisition, Activision Blizzard will not be hosting a conference call, issuing an earnings presentation, or providing financial guidance in conjunction with its first quarter 2022 earnings release,” the company said last week.

CEO Bobby Kotick will continue to lead Activision, the companies have said, but will report to Microsoft gaming CEO Phil Spencer.

The all-cash offer, which values Activision at $95 per share, Microsoft will have access to 30 internal game development studios, as well as e-sports publishing capabilities, when the deal closes later this year, while helping build-out its XBox console offerings.

“Gaming is the most dynamic and exciting category in entertainment across all platforms today and will play a key role in the development of metaverse platforms,” said CEO Satya Nadella at the time of the purchase. “We’re investing deeply in world-class content, community and the cloud to usher in a new era of gaming that puts players and creators first and makes gaming safe, inclusive and accessible to all.”