Federal judge approves AT&T-Time Warner merger

By Diane Bartz and David Shepardson

Comcast's $35 per share offer, which represents a 19% premium on Disney's bid, could result in a result in a high-stakes bidding war for Fox's assets.

We have reviewed the publicly available terms of the proposed Disney transaction, as well as the joint proxy statement/prospectus filed with the SEC describing the reasons for the 21CF Board of Directors' decision. And Leon's decision is likely to trigger a wave of new mergers, as many executives were waiting to for the outcome of AT&T's bid before pushing forward with their desired deals.

President Trump has been screaming "fake news" and trying to break media conglomerates since he took office, but yesterday, the free press scored a "yuge" win as a federal judge approved a blockbuster merger of telecommunications titan AT&T and media giant Time Warner.

The judge in a scathing opinion urged the US government not to seek a stay of his ruling, saying it would be "manifestly unjust" to do so and not likely to succeed. If he does not approve the deal, AT&T is expected to keep fighting.

Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim said the Justice Department was "disappointed" by the decision, but did not say if it planned to appeal. CNN is a unit of Time Warner.

The DOJ filed suit against AT&T in November of previous year, claiming that if the deal were allowed to go through, Time Warner's Turner television networks could be withheld from competing TV carriers or licensed at such a high cost as to give AT&T (who also owns DirecTV) an unfair advantage over its competitors.

Now that the ruling went in the merger's favor, sources claim that a Comcast-Fox acquisition will be announced any moment now.

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The acquisition will create one of the most powerful companies in global media, marrying AT&T's widespread consumer distribution capabilities with the crown jewels of Time Warner, including HBO, Warner Bros. film and TV studios, and TV channels including CNN, TNT and TBS.

In the most high-profile antitrust case in decades, the ruling is likely to set a benchmark for whether other mega-deals, especially in the media and communications sectors, can proceed or will face heightened antitrust scrutiny.

"It's open season for vertical mergers", said Chris Sagers, an antitrust law professor at the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law.

In a massively controversial decision, US District Judge Richard Leon has ruled that AT&T can acquire Time Warner, and do so without any conditions placed on it. But some outside of government are anxious about what it could mean for competition. "It really makes an appeal very hard for the government and most likely the AT&T-Time Warner transaction is going to close early next week", Greenfield told Cheddar. The government alleged that by owning Time Warner, AT&T would have too much leverage in negotiations with television distributors, which would hurt competitors, harm innovation and could lead to increased cable prices for consumers.

AT&T argued that it was the very threats posed by the likes of Amazon, Netflix, and Facebook that demanded it expand into a media-tech titan.

But Salil K. Mehra, a professor at Temple's Beasley School of Law and an expert on antitrust, said "this is a courageous new world in which leverage issues and the data collection on individuals make it harder to predict what will happen".

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