AT&T wins court approval to buy Time Warner over Trump opposition

Comcast’s offer for 21st Century Fox sets up a battle of wills between two of the most dominant and deep-pocketed entertainment companies in the world — Walt Disney and Comcast

We're still waiting to get a copy of the full ruling, but Bloomberg TV reported that US District Judge Richard Leon ruled entirely in AT&T's favor.

The Trump Justice Department had sued to block the $US85 billion merger, arguing it would hurt competition in cable and satellite TV and jack up costs to consumers for streaming TV and movies. It could also threaten to withhold content from Time Warner channels, such as CNN, HBO or TNT, from rival services in order to gain a competitive advantage for AT&T's TV services. In conclusion, he said, "the government has failed to meet its burden of proof".

AT&T countered in court papers that the merger would allow it to compete better with Netflix, Amazon, Google and other companies that offer online video.

Analysts say the decision will bolster firms such as Comcast - which is considering bidding for 21st Century Fox assets, including its stake in Sky, in a challenge to a deal announced between Fox and Disney past year.

A decision is expected Tuesday afternoon in the government's lawsuit to block AT&T's purchase of Time Warner.

"This deal will accelerate content and streaming initiatives between Time Warner properties and AT&T and be a major shot across the bow to other cable and wireless players with all these assets under one hood", he said. With that added revenue, it could eventually lower the cost of its subscription services, the company argues.

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The last time it tapped the capital markets in July, the company only had to pay investors 3.5bp-9bp in new issue concessions when it brought a US$22.5bn blockbuster bond deal for the proposed merger. "We look forward to closing the merger on or before June 20 so we can begin to give consumers video entertainment that is more affordable, mobile, and innovative".

Months before Trump nominated him to the Justice Department's leading antitrust position in 2017, Delrahim even had expressed an openness to the combination of AT&T and Time Warner, predicting in an interview on Canadian television that it might not trigger any regulatory concerns.

DOJ antitrust official Makan Delrahim said the government is disappointed in the court's decision and will consider "next steps".

"This decision will have an outsized effect because there are so few antitrust trials that challenge vertical mergers", said Michael Carrier, a Rutgers University law professor specializing in antitrust.

Before the trial started, AT&T lawyers said the Time Warner deal may have been singled out for government enforcement but the judge rejected their bid to force the disclosure of White House communications that might have shed light on the matter.

President Donald Trump, who has advocated for the blocking of the deal, has criticized CNN for its coverage of his election campaign and his administration. "It's illogical. It's why we did the deal". Trump weighed in again after the justice department filed its suit: "Personally, I've always felt that that was a deal that's not good for the country".

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