USA judge clears AT&T merger with Time Warner

Govt argues that AT&T-Time Warner deal would hurt consumers

Investors are welcoming a federal judge's approval of AT&T's $85 billion takeover of Time Warner.

"Allowing this merger to proceed raises serious concerns for consumers and the future of American media, and also sends a troubling signal to others that it's open season for vertical mergers that could allow a company to raise the cost of essential products and services that its rivals need to compete, leading to higher costs for consumers and less innovation", Klobuchar said.

He said during the trial that the merger with Time Warner is a "significant shift in strategy" for AT&T, explaining the company knew that smaller acquisitions for content wouldn't work.

The merger was approved without conditions and is seen as a turning point for a media industry that has been upended by companies like Netflix Inc and Google which produce content and sell it online directly to consumers, without requiring a pricey cable subscription. He also warned the USA government against bringing an appeal if the objective was to try to stymie the deal, though the DOJ has not indicated its next steps.

The US Department of Justice-the nation's antitrust authority-sued to block the deal late previous year, arguing that Time Warner's media brands like HBO, Warner Bros., and CNN would give AT&T outsized power, hurt competition, and lead to higher prices for consumers.

Now the judge overseeing the case has ruled that AT&T can merge with Time Warner.

Twenty-First Century Fox, which has garnered interest from Disney and Comcast, saw its shares climb 4.6 percent, to $42.25, in after-hours trading.

In after-market trading following the ruling, shares of Time Warner rose almost 5 percent and AT&T shares fell 1.6 percent. The DOJ moved to block the merger in March, arguing that the merger would reduce competition and hurt consumer choice.

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"We want people engaged with their mobile devices all day watching movies and video", Stephenson said in April during the trial.

Time Warner controls assets such as HBO, CNN and, most importantly, Warner Bros.

The government argued that AT&T would gain outsize market power, jacking up the prices it charges cable providers to carry networks in the Time Warner stable.

Waiting in the wings are potential big-billions deals involving 21st Century Fox and Disney, Verizon and CBS, T-Mobile and Sprint. In fact, CNNMoney reported that AT&T-Time Warner's counsel Daniel Petrocelli made the argument that traditional media orgs have already been left behind in the digital revolution.

The Time Warner deal is a crucial achievement for Stephenson, who views AT&T as competing with Google, Facebook, Netflix and other Silicon Valley giants.

Initially AT&T and Time Warner planned to use a "selective enforcement" defense, alleging that the administration was blocking the deal because of Trump's dislike of CNN. AT&T is known to most consumers as a telecom company, offering cable, internet and phone services, but this is just the latest in a line of mergers from such companies trying to break into the media landscape.

Leon described part of the government's case as "gossamer thin", saying that during the trial the Justice Department's expert witness declined to back some of the government's own theories.

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