FTC chair met UK antitrust officials last week but did not talk deals

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan met with the heads of other antitrust enforcers, including Britain's, last week but no mergers were discussed, according to an FTC official who spoke amid allegations the FTC and UK are working together to block Microsoft's bid for Activision.

On Wednesday, Britain's Competition and Markets Authority blocked Microsoft's $69 billion deal to buy "Call of Duty" maker Activision Blizzard, saying it could hit competition in the nascent cloud gaming market.

The FTC official, speaking on Thursday, was responding to comments made by the game-maker's CEO, Bobby Kotick, who told CNBC he believed that the U.S. agency had pushed Britain's CMA to stop the planned acquisition.

The FTC has filed a complaint to block the deal. Microsoft has indicated that it will fight both regulators.

Kotick said: "I was surprised to learn that Lina Khan and the head of the CMA had a meeting a week and a half ago in Washington. You know, legally, you’re not supposed to be discussing active litigation. I don't know that they did."

"I think that that’s what you’re seeing now is that the CMA is being used as a tool by the FTC to be able to create these kinds of outcomes, and it this isn't the way that they’re supposed to be operating," he said.

The FTC official, who was not authorized to speak on the record but who was present at the virtual meeting, said that officials had no discussions of any mergers being reviewed or other ongoing investigations.

The FTC categorically denied any wrongdoing.

"The FTC absolutely did not collude with the CMA or any other international regulator on any proposed merger review. When a deal appears blatantly anticompetitive then independent antitrust regulators can simply make their own judgments," said spokesperson Douglas Farrar.

Farrar also said that the agency does work with other antitrust enforcers, "and has for decades under both Republican and Democratic Chairs, a practice long welcomed by the business community. But we never outsource our authority."

Microsoft President Brad Smith also reacted bitterly to the CMA decision, saying the regulator's move "had shaken confidence" in Britain as a destination for tech businesses and was "probably the darkest day in our four decades in Britain."

(Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Daniel Wallis)