Monday, 25 June, 2018


Judge approves AT&T-Time Warner deal

Ruling Expected Soon In AT&T/Time-Warner Merger Case Courts To M&A Bankers “Everbody Gets Laid!”
Conrad Doyle | 13 June, 2018, 01:32

The U.S. Department of Justice has lost its antitrust lawsuit to bar the planned AT&T and Time Warner merger, according to Business Insider.

It allows AT&T, a phone and pay-TV giant, to absorb the owner of CNN, HBO, the Warner Bros. movie studio, "Game of Thrones", coveted sports programming and other "must-see" shows. The Justice Department could decide to appeal the ruling, however. Customers will benefit from new bundles and offerings made possible by the merger, and the combined company will "develop new ad-supported video models that shift more costs to advertisers and off consumers", AT&T argued.

The Justice Department, which may still appeal the decision, sued the companies in November, arguing that the tie-up could be used to suppress competition and raise prices for consumers. But, he added, "the government's evidence is too thin a reed for this court to rely on".

The merger was approved without any conditions, a stunning rebuke of the government's case. The "drop dead" deadline for the merger to be completed is June 21. The loss is a black eye for the Justice Department. The proposed merger was so big and consequential that it drew the government's first lawsuit in decades to block a merger of two companies that don't directly compete. 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. It claims about 25 million of the 90 million or so USA households that are pay-TV customers.

Leon's ruling could shape the government's future competition policy.

Ruling Expected Soon In AT&T/Time-Warner Merger Case

Comcast's deal is expected to be announced tomorrow. Disney has bid for 21st Century Fox's entertainment assets, a deal that appears to have been shaped to avoid a challenge by Delrahim's antitrust squad. Comcast and Verizon are also jockeying for position in the new landscape. He noted that Time Warner owned CNN, and then declared his opposition to the $85 billion proposed sale.

During the trial, the judge heard from dozens of witnesses, including AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson and Time Warner CEO Jeffrey Bewkes. "If it's narrow, like 'I don't think Time Warner content is that must-have, ' that may have implications in a similar merger in the telecommunications space but may not have a drastic effect in other vertical mergers", said Caroline Holland, who was in the Antitrust Division during the administration of former President Barack Obama.

The government's case hinged on an economic model produced by Carl Shapiro, an economist at the University of California at Berkeley, who predicted an annual price increase to consumers of at least $285 million. The companies rejected both options. In fact, he suggested, consumers could end up paying less after a merger - maybe even $500 million less annually.

Time Warner gained as much as 5.8 percent in after-hours trading, while AT&T fell as much as 3.9 percent.

"We are gratified that the court's decision to categorically reject the government's bid to block this historic merger", he said.

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