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Judge OKs AT&T merger with Time Warner

14 June 2018

Comcast is expected to bid for some of Twenty-First Century Fox Inc. assets as soon as tomorrow.

Not surprisingly, AT&T said in a statement from General Counsel David McAtee that it was happy with a decision that will allow it to finalize the deal by June 20, one day ahead of its self-imposed deadline. A Comcast takeover of Fox would be similar to AT&T's so-called vertical merger with Time Warner in that it would combine two markedly businesses working at separate parts of the ecosystem.

Shares of 21st Century Fox rose more than 7% in early trading Wednesday after a Federal judge ruled AT&T could buy Time Warner for $85.4 billion, largely seen as a positive sign for future mergers. He has also discouraged the government agency from pursuing a stay of his decision if it will pursue an appeal.

Delrahim said the government was disappointed in the ruling and would "consider next steps".

Shares of other media and telecom companies also rose, including T-Mobile US Inc, Sprint Corp, CBS Corp, Dish Network Corp, Discovery Inc and Viacom Inc.

AT&T and Time Warner announced their deal on October 22, 2016, in the midst of the bitterly contested presidential campaign between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

FOX Business Network senior correspondent Charles Gasparino was first to report that Comcast was planning to announce its bid after market close.

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".

The tie-up would Wednesday largest USA pay-TV operator and the second-largest wireless phone carrier with Time Warner, owner of premium channel HBO, the Warner Bros studios, Cartoon Network and CNN.

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The Justice Department is not likely to be put off by the loss, said Amy Ray of the law firm Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP, noting it had prevailed in stopping other mergers between rivals.

Today's ruling comes as part of the antitrust lawsuit levied by the Justice Department a year ago.

A USA federal judge was set to announce his verdict in the $85 billion merger of wireless and broadband giant AT&T with media-entertainment conglomerate Time Warner.

The Justice Department sued to block AT&T/Time Warner deal in late 2017 as anti-competitive and harmful to consumers. And he predicted that the ruling would lead to still more consolidation.

AT&T and Time Warner's lead lawyer, Daniel Petrocelli, said outside the courthouse that the companies were gratified and relieved.

If AT&T is successful in its bid to buy Time Warner, it will nearly certainly find itself competing in a media market dominated by other large, integrated providers.

Those comments and his repeated criticism of CNN, which is owned by Time Warner's Turner Broadcasting business unit, raised speculation that Trump had pushed Delrahim and the Justice Department to block the deal. "The fact is that they've gotten a little easier, and we'll see a big flurry of deals".

"One can not ignore the fact that there's less independent content to go around", after the AT&T deal, said Henry Su, an antitrust expert with Constantine Cannon LLP. 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.

Judge OKs AT&T merger with Time Warner