AT&T-Time Warner Merger Gets The Green Light From Federal Court

AT&T-Time Warner Merger Gets The Green Light From Federal Court

Shares of AT&T fell about 1.3 per cent in after-hours trade following the decision, while Time Warner rose more than 5 per cent. Comcast was down 3 per cent.

The Department of Justice could decide to appeal the verdict.

A federal judge on Tuesday gave his blessing to telecom giant AT&T's drive to take over the Time Warner media conglomerate.

The case has drawn attention from all sides including Sling TV's President Warren Schlichting, who testified against the merger.

"The court has spoken", U.S. District Judge Richard Leon said. "It would be a lose/lose for us, and a win/win for them".

Because of AT&T's ownership of DirecTV, it can drive a harder bargain with other distributors that want Time Warner content, the government's lawyers argued during the trial.

Leon rejected the notion of temporarily suspending the merger for a possible appeal by the government.

It is worth remembering that the Justice Department is reviewing the T-Mobile/Sprint combination, and the Justice Department did not approve AT&T's purchase of Time Warner.

But AT&T failed to provide any evidence suggesting that the DOJ's prosecution of the merger had "discriminatory effect and discriminatory intent", Leon said in a ruling earlier in the trial. The ruling could open the floodgates to deal making in the fast-changing entertainment and video-content worlds. He rejected the government's argument that it would hurt competition in pay TV and cost consumers hundreds of millions of dollars more to stream TV and movies.

AT&T-Time Warner Merger Gets The Green Light From Federal Court
AT&T-Time Warner Merger Gets The Green Light From Federal Court

On the campaign trail in October 2016, then-candidate Donald Trump spoke in Gettysburg, Pa. A loss for AT&T and Time Warner could have signaled a new era of government scrutiny over so-called "vertical mergers" and could have halted attempts by companies like Disney, Fox and Comcast to announce their own megadeals.

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.

AT&T and Time Warner are not competitors; their proposed merger would be a "vertical integration" of complementary companies.

Outside of court, however, critics of the lawsuit pointed to Trump's frequent criticism of CNN, which is owned by Time Warner.

As one carrot to get deal approval, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson mentioned in court that AT&T will be debuting a new skinny streaming service in the near future.

AT&T said it intends to close the merger by June 20.

"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.

AT&T has said it needs to buy Time Warner to compete with the likes of Amazon, Netflix and Google in the shape-shifting streaming-TV environment. AT&T wasn't on board, saying, "Divestitures here would destroy the very consumer value this merger is created to unlock".

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