Judge clears AT&T takeover of Time Warner

Judge clears AT&T takeover of Time Warner

A federal juge ruled on Tuesday that AT&T can proceed with its $85.4 billion acquisition of Time Warner. "We continue to believe that the pay-TV market will be less competitive and less innovative as a result of the proposed merger between AT&T and Time Warner". AT&T lawyers initially sought email correspondence between Trump's White House and the Justice Department, but Leon declared that any communications were not relevant to the trial, and AT&T relented.

The mega-merger was a high-stakes bet by AT&T Inc. on combining a company that produces news and entertainment with one that funnels it to consumers. Time Warner owns HBO, Warner Bros., and Turner Broadcasting System.

"The government here has taken its best shot to oppose this merger", Leon said, speaking to a packed courtroom in an unusual session weeks after the trial ended.

Leon's opinion may also increase the chances that other deals already reached, like CVS' bid for Aetna and T-Mobile's proposed merger with Sprint, will survive regulatory scrutiny.

In after-market trading following the ruling, shares of Time Warner rose almost 5 percent and AT&T shares fell 1.6 percent.

Judge clears AT&T takeover of Time Warner
Judge clears AT&T takeover of Time Warner

With or without Time Warner, AT&T is very focused on its media business.

The Justice Department had repeatedly suggested the judge consider forcing AT&T to divest some of Time Warner's cable channels. Announced in October 2016, it was seized on by then presidential candidate Donald Trump as the sort pf deal his administration would block. A clear win for AT&T will embolden Comcast, the US's largest cable company, to top Walt Disney's $52bn bid for 21st Century Fox, the media empire controlled by Rupert Murdoch and his family.

Trump's frequent attacks on CNN led to much speculation, including from AT&T Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson, that the president's opposition stemmed from anger over the network's coverage rather than concern over greater corporate consolidation. It is expected to appeal and ask for a stay - a delay that could stop the deal from closing for four to six months while an appellate court ponders a decision, legal experts said. Trump had pledged to block the deal when he was campaigning for president. In fact, he suggested, consumers could end up paying less after a merger - maybe even $500 million less annually. That leverage would allow AT&T to raise prices for Time Warner content, with those costs being passed on to consumers, according to the Justice Department. The company said in a statement that it plans to complete the takeover on or before June 20. AT&T and Time Warner say that by coming together they can create synergies of data and information that will help them make better content and sell more targeted ads, which they claim could ultimately help lower prices for consumers.

"The judge's sweeping rejection of the government's case doesn't surprise us at all", AT&T attorney Daniel Petrocelli told reporters outside of the courthouse shortly after the decision was issued.

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