U.S. appeals judge's order allowing AT&T to buy Time Warner

14 July, 2018, 11:19 | Author: Regina Silva
  • AP  File

AT&T's $85 billion purchase of Time Warner is once again facing a regulatory battle with the US Department of Justice.

Judge Richard Leon ruled in AT&T's favor in June, saying in a blistering verdict that the Department of Justice did not sufficiently meet its burden of proving that the deal would allow AT&T to harm rival TV providers. "While the losing party in litigation always has the right to appeal if it wishes, we are surprised that the DOJ has chosen to do so under these circumstances", AT&T General Counsel David McAtee said in a statement provided to CNBC. The deadline could be missed, allowing under the merger agreement for either company to walk away from the deal and forcing AT&T to pay Time Warner a $500 million "breakup" fee.

By opposing the merger, the government was forced to argue against a legal doctrine which favours vertical mergers - which is a combination between companies which do not compete directly with each other.

The merger, first announced in October 2016, was opposed by President Donald Trump.

The June 12 ruling was a blow for the Justice Department's antitrust division. AT&T is a phone, cable and satellite behemoth that became the biggest pay-TV provider in the USA with its acquisition of DirecTV in 2014. "AT&T and Time Warner concluded that each had a problem the other could solve", he wrote.

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This fuelled speculation that Trump could be retaliating due to critical coverage of his administration from news broadcaster CNN, which was part of Time Warner.

However, that apparently was not enough to satisfy the DoJ, which declined to comment.

It has committed to certain conditions under which it will run Time Warner's Turner Broadcasting, which includes CNN.

Delrahim and DOJ-Antitrust's suit against the AT&T-Time Warner merger bucked this trend, seeking to establish a norm against some vertical integration in the era of tech giants that increasingly offer products up and down the supply chain.

Comcast started a bidding war with Disney for the entertainment assets of Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox in the days following the court ruling.

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