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Court allows AT&T purchase of Time Warner

13 June 2018, 01:21 | Austin Hogan

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Judge set to determine fate of AT&T-Time Warner merger

AT&T plans to close its purchase of Time Warner Inc no later than June 20 after a US court decided it could move ahead with the deal, the company's lead attorney said on Tuesday.

"The impact from this decision will have wide reaching ramifications across the telecommunications, media, and tech industry for decades to come", said GBH Insights analyst Dan Ives.

"We continue to believe that the pay-TV market will be less competitive and less innovative as a result of the proposed merger between AT&T and Time Warner", he said in a statement. The Justice Department even sued to block it, but Judge Leon saw things a bit differently.

Now that a federal judge has approved AT&T's $85 billion takeover of Time Warner, other companies are likely to rush to consolidate.

Some thought Trump had pressed for the lawsuit because of his animus toward Time Warner's CNN.

"The government here has taken its best shot to oppose this merger", Leon said, speaking to a packed courtroom in an unusual session weeks after the trial ended.

AT&T Inc, which owns DirecTV, awaits a court ruling on Tuesday that will determine if it can buy Time Warner Inc, a decision that could prompt a cascade of pay TV companies buying television and movie makers and the first big test of the Trump administration's antitrust teams.

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.

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The trial is also a landmark for the entire industry, as companies like Disney, Fox and Comcast wait to see how the judge rules before moving ahead with their own mega deals. The loss is a black eye for the Justice Department. The ruling could open the floodgates to deal making in the fast-changing entertainment and video-content worlds.

As a candidate for president, Trump vowed to block the merger, stating it would concentrate too much power in one company.

As one carrot to get deal approval, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson mentioned in court that AT&T will be debuting a new skinny streaming service in the near future.

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 judge rejected the government's argument that the merger would hurt competition in pay TV and cost consumers hundreds of millions of dollars more to stream TV and movies.

"We think the evidence throughout the trial was quite clear and we're very pleased that the court saw it the same way", said Daniel Petrocelli, AT&T's lawyer.

AT&T said it intends to close the merger by June 20. AT&T and Time Warner say that by coming together they can create synergies of data and information that will help them make better content and sell more targeted ads, which they claim could ultimately help lower prices for consumers.



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