AT&T’s Acquisition of Time Warner is a Done Deal

Brian Roberts

CREDIT Mark Lennihan AP REX Shutterstock

AT&T Inc (T.N), the No. 2 wireless carrier, on Thursday closed its $85 billion (£64.1 billion) deal to acquire media company Time Warner Inc (TWX.N) after US antitrust regulators indicated they would not seek a delay.

On Tuesday, US District Judge Richard Leon ruled against the government's attempt to block the megamerger on anti-competitive grounds.

The DOJ had sued in November against the vertical merger, which involved two companies that don't directly compete with each other. According to the court filing, Daniel Petrocelli, the attorney for AT&T and Time Warner, said the Justice Department "has no objection to closing this merger as soon as possible, including later this week, and will forego a request for a stay pending appeal".

"It's official: AT&T now owns Time Warner". Prosecutors argued that the deal could be used to suppress competition and raise prices for consumers.

The Justice Department may still appeal the judge's ruling in the case.

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The government could still appeal the decision.

"Combine all that with AT&T's strengths in direct-to-consumer distribution, and we offer customers a differentiated, high-quality, mobile-first entertainment experience".

Leon took apart the government's case in his opinion.

He noted the "drop dead" deadline for completing the deal was June 21, and if wasn't wrapped up by then, either company could walk away and AT&T would have to pay Time Warner a $500 million "breakup" fee.

The government may have a hard time winning on appeal because of the way Judge Leon wrote his opinion, four antitrust experts said. The move gives AT&T control over channels such as CNN, HBO, TBS and TNT.

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AT&T has committed to certain conditions under which it will run Time Warner's Turner Broadcasting, which includes CNN.

The merger will fuse a company that produces news and entertainment with one that funnels that programming to consumers.

The ruling already has started opening the floodgates to deal making in the fast-changing worlds of entertainment production and distribution.

The first to come was Comcast Corp's (CMCSA.O) $65 billion bid on Wednesday for the entertainment assets of Twenty-First Century Fox Inc (FOXA.O).

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The Justice Department "did a good job just focusing on this merger. and how it would be abusive, not just how bad". It would also be the 12th largest deal in any sector, the data showed.

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