Judge approves $85 billion AT&T-Time Warner deal

Posted June 13, 2018

Daenerys Targaryen, Superman and Harry Potter are all headed to AT&T after all.

Now that a federal judge has approved AT&T's $85 billion takeover of Time Warner, other companies are likely to rush to consolidate. AT&T will now have a major foothold in the media industry. Comcast has already made an offer for Sky, the United Kingdom satellite TV business.

AT&T applauded the court's decision.

A ruling in favor of AT&T would also ease the path for a merger. Delrahim, Trump's appointment as the antitrust chief at the Justice Department, is widely well-regarded.

Most proposed transactions were either good for consumers or neutral, said Makan Delrahim, the assistant attorney general for antitrust.

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. "We will closely review the Court's opinion and consider next steps in light of our commitment to preserving competition for the benefit of American consumers".

But government regulators, who brought forth the lawsuit last November, alleged the merger would result in higher prices across the industry. This decision could put more pressure on companies like Amazon, Netflix and Google's YouTube, which have been competing with traditional media companies for eyeballs.

During the trial, the judge heard from dozens of witnesses, including AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson and Time Warner CEO Jeffrey Bewkes. The Trump Justice Department sued to block the $85 billion merger, arguing that it would hurt competition in pay TV and cost consumers more to stream TV and movies. That power would allow the company to raise prices for pay TV rivals and online streaming services, the government said.

AT&T and Time Warner dismissed the government's concerns.

Distributors including cable, satellite and wireless carriers all see buying content companies as a way to add revenue. The merged companies could withhold programming from competitors, pressuring consumers to switch to AT&T services.

A federal judge on Tuesday gave his blessing to telecom giant AT&T's drive to take over the Time Warner media conglomerate. Judge Leon asked in response to a statement about the threat of content blackouts.

Time Warner owns CNN, HBO, Warner Bros. Announced in October 2016, it was seized on by then presidential candidate Donald Trump as the sort pf deal his administration would block. The case was held in US District Court for the District of Columbia. AT&T lawyers initially sought email correspondence between Trump's White House and the Justice Department, but Leon declared that any communications were not relevant to the trial, and AT&T relented. Sessions did not comply with the request.

The ruling is a stinging defeat for the Justice Department.

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". AT&T did not immediately respond to a request for comment.