Justice Department appeals approval of AT&T-Time Warner deal

Smartphone with AT&T logo is seen in front of displayed Time Warner logo in this

The deadline could be missed, allowing under the merger agreement for either company to walk away from the deal and forcing AT&T to pay Time Warner a $500 million "breakup" fee.

Leon, though, also warned against an appeal, writing in his decision "A$3 s my 170-plus page opinion makes clear - I do not believe that the Government has a likelihood of success on the merits of an appeal". "While the losing party in litigation always has the right to appeal if it wishes, we are surprised that the DOJ has chosen to do so under these circumstances", AT&T General Counsel David McAtee said in a statement provided to CNBC. "We are ready to defend the court's decision".

Leon dismissed their arguments and the economic forecasting they relied upon that showed the merger would raise prices for consumers and hurt competition. It's a very interesting and unexpected outcome but one to keep a watchful eye on going forward. AT&T has since closed the acquisition of Time Warner, including CNN.

AT&T told the Justice Department in a June 14 letter that it would manage Time Warner's Turner cable television networks as part of a separate business unit and take other steps until February 2019 or until any government appeal.

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However, that apparently was not enough to satisfy the DoJ, which declined to comment.

The Department of Justice on Thursday is appealing (via Bloomberg) the case on the grounds of antitrust. It has been renamed WarnerMedia, and AT&T has rolled out a $15-a-month streaming service that heavily uses some of the content owned by WarnerMedia. AT&T is a phone, cable and satellite behemoth that became the biggest pay-TV provider in the US with its acquisition of DirecTV in 2014. AT&T's expert witnesses claimed during the trial that merging with Time Warner would create efficiencies and allow the company to lower the prices charged to consumers. That apparently wasn't enough, however, to satisfy the Justice Department.

Trump had previously denounced the AT&T deal, vowing that his administration would block it because it would concentrate corporate power unacceptably. The day after Leon delivered his ruling, Comcast made a $65 billion offer for 21st Century Fox, in an attempt to outbid Disney for Fox's entertainment assets. Waiting in the wings are potential big-billions deals involving Verizon and CBS and T-Mobile and Sprint.

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