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13 June 2018, 01:18 | Hattie Nash
Judge approves $85 billion AT&T-Time Warner deal
The oral opinion, slated to be delivered after 4 p.m. E.T.by U.S. District Judge Richard Leon, will cap the company's almost two-year battle to close its takeover of Time Warner Inc. The Justice Department sued to block the deal from going through in November of 2017, arguing that it would limit competition and raise prices.
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.
Leon, in his remarks during the ruling, strongly urged the government not seek a stay that would hold up the close of the deal.
AT&T says it plans to move forward with the deal in less than a week, leaving a small window of time for the justice department to file an appeal.
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AT&T has won in court against the DOJ to proceed with its big Time Warner merger. It could tie products together, offering AT&T phone customers free access to Time Warner offerings, squeezing out competitors that do not own media companies.
Prior to the news on the decision in the case, AT&T stock closed up 0.5% (to $34.50 per share) and Time Warner closed up 0.05% in regular trading (to $96.22 per share) which concluded at 4 p.m. ET. It may immediately trigger another deal between Comcast and Fox, which already has an agreement to sell its entertainment assets to Walt Disney. 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". The companies then entered into discussions with the DOJ previous year and rumors surfaced that the agency had suggested some divestitures in order for AT&T to avoid an antitrust lawsuit.
Time Warner gained as much as 5.8 percent in after-hours trading, while AT&T fell as much as 3.9 percent.
The lawyer added that the merger would be completed no later than June 20 of this year.
Judge Richard Leon said the USA government failed to meet the burden of proof that the tie up between the largest United States pay TV operator and media entertainment giant Time Warner would harm competition. And in order to stay competitive, AT&T's CEO Randall Stephenson said during the trial that it needed a big deal to survive.
"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 and Time Warner said they need to combine in order to better compete with Facebook (FB), Amazon (AMZN), Apple (AAPL), Netflix (NFLX) and Google (GOOG), companies that are already powerhouses in the content game.
But AT&T rejected that idea, stating in a court filing that, "Divestitures here would destroy the very consumer value this merger is created to unlock". First floated in October 2016, the deal also brought fire from then-candidate Donald Trump, who promised to kill it "because it's too much concentration of power in the hands of too few".
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