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USA judge clears AT&T merger with Time Warner with no conditions

13 June 2018

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

CapitalistPig asset management's Jonathan Hoenig and MaxFunds.com co-founder Jonas Max Ferris on how a federal judge is allowing AT&T to move forward with its acquisition of Time Warner. It's already purchased satellite TV provider DirecTV for almost $49 billion. AT&T asked the court to focus on the former.

Daniel Petrocelli, lead attorney for AT&T and Time Warner, speaks with the media outside the U.S. District Court on June 12, 2018 in Washington, DC.

The Justice Department had sued to block the merger, in light of the latter potential consequences.

"AT&T is buying Time Warner, and thus CNN", Trump told an audience at a campaign stop in Gettysburg, calling the proposed merger an example of a media "power structure" that was working to suppress his vote and the voices of his supporters.

"Consumers may not notice the difference if this one deal goes through because they are already getting crushed in the marketplace", added Susan Crawford, a professor at Harvard Law School and author of Captive Audience on the Comcast/NBCUniversal merger.

As reported by Deadline, investors are expecting Comcast's new bid for 21st Century Fox "any minute now".

AT&T, for its part, insists that legacy media companies can't compete with the rising titans of Amazon and Netflix unless they're allowed to bring content creation and distribution under the same roof.

A judge has just ruled that AT&T can acquire Time Warner.

"We are pleased that, after conducting a full and fair trial on the merits, the Court has categorically rejected the government's lawsuit to block our merger with Time Warner", said David McAtee, the general counsel of AT&T.

At the heart of the DOJ's complaint is an assumption that the merged entity would use its market power to raise the price of content now owned by Time Warner, or threaten to withhold programming, including hit shows such as Game of Thrones and NCAA March Madness.

"Consumers should fear a cascade of unchecked mergers and acquisitions to further consolidate the telecom industry resulting in less choice, fewer competitors and higher prices", Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat, said in a statement. AT&T has been the nation's largest pay-TV company since it acquired DirecTV in 2015, and is one of the largest providers of home and mobile broadband service.

The US stance on AT&T's purchase of Time Warner has formed a big piece of the M&A puzzle when it comes to competition. He said the company needed to take a giant leap into the content business.

"If what you see is a pattern where friends of the president get their deals approved and his enemies are challenged, it's problematic", Levin said.

Announced in October 2016, it was seized on by then presidential candidate Donald Trump as the sort pf deal his administration would block.

AT&T disputed the government's math, and tried to prove that President Trump meddled in the government's merger review.

The high court is expected to hand down a decision in that case on Thursday. Sessions did not comply with the request. The Judge has put no conditions on the merger.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

USA judge clears AT&T merger with Time Warner with no conditions