June 23, 2018

Judge approves AT&T-Time Warner merger opposed by Trump

13 June 2018, 02:28 | Melvin Schneider

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Judge set to determine fate of AT&T-Time Warner merger

AT&T asked the court to approve their $85 billion deal to buy Time Warner to be approved without any preconditions.

Jayant said that Time Warner will have to give its blessing either way, either giving AT&T the OK to appeal if the DOJ wins or giving AT&T the OK to extend the merger deadline if AT&T wins and the DOJ appeals. For example, Comcast is reportedly eager to gobble up some of 21st Century Fox's assets.

Leon says that the acquisition doesn't violate any antitrust laws, and in response to the government asking Leon to put down his own ruling to potentially kill the purchase, Leon noted that the quest was "manifestly unjust".

AT&T and Time Warner announced their deal on October 22, 2016, in the midst of the bitterly contested presidential campaign between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

The judge's ruling will likely be seen by tech and telecom giants as a green light to pursue a slew of major media acquisitions. The Justice Department "did a good job just focusing on this merger. and how it would be abusive, not just how bad". In order for them to compete against these giants, Time Warner needs AT&T's distribution network of broadband and wireless customers.

"AT&T is buying Time Warner, and thus CNN", Trump told an audience at a campaign stop in Gettysburg, calling the proposed merger an example of a media "power structure" that was working to suppress his vote and the voices of his supporters.

Time Warner's stock rose almost 5 per cent in after-market trading.

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Today's ruling comes as part of the antitrust lawsuit levied by the Justice Department a year ago. It could have done that by licensing legacy content from others, arranging syndication deals for new content, and building its own studio, as Netflix and Amazon have done. Looming in the background of the deal has been Trump's long-running feud with Time Warner's CNN, which he has often derided as "failing" and a purveyor of "fake news".

"They have to test whether those efficiencies will be gamed, or at least whether or not it is likely that the merger will result in a substantial lessening of competition, which could include price increases of pharmaceutical drugs to non-Aetna competitors who may not get the benefit of rebates that Aetna will get", Cantor said. Plenty more details are sure to be revealed in the coming days and we'll be sure to keep you up to date as new information is made available. But looking beyond today, the merger could have a strong effect on future deals.

In April, during the trial, Randall Stephenson - the CEO of AT&T - said, "We want people engaged with their mobile devices all day watching movies and video".

AT&T argued that the merger will help customers without harming AT&T's business rivals, and that the combined company wouldn't have enough market power to raise antitrust concerns.

The Justice Department had repeatedly suggested the judge consider forcing AT&T to divest some of Time Warner's cable channels.

AT&T's stock fell as much as 2.5% and shares were up as much as 5.3% to more than $100 per share in after-hours trading Tuesday.

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