Judge approves AT&T merger with Time Warner

Ruling Expected Soon In AT&T/Time-Warner Merger Case

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The $85 billion merger of AT& and was cleared by a federal judge in Washington, D.C., today in a landmark antitrust ruling that went against the USA government's Department of Justice.

The US had sued to block the deal, arguing that it would reduce competition in pay TV and lead to higher prices for consumers. The Judge has put no conditions on the merger.

When the trial ended, Judge Leon suggested the parties consider some remedies both could deal with depending on how he ruled. Trump weighed in again after the justice department filed its suit: "Personally, I've always felt that that was a deal that's not good for the country".

Regulators will still likely scrutinize similar deals, and there is no guarantee that the district court's approval of AT&T's merger with Time Warner means that other major media acquisitions would be approved, several antitrust attorneys told Reuters. It could tie products together, offering AT&T phone customers free access to Time Warner offerings, squeezing out competitors that do not own media companies. According to a scheduling order, AT&T has agreed not to complete the acquisition for six days to allow time for an appeal.

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Comcast reportedly is looking to make an offer to purchase 21st Century Fox the day after AT&T's merger comes into play.

Some thought Trump had pressed for the lawsuit because of his animus toward Time Warner's CNN. He rejected the government's argument that it would hurt competition in pay TV and cost consumers hundreds of millions of dollars more to stream TV and movies.

AT&T argued that the merger will help customers without harming AT&T's business rivals, and that the combined company wouldn't have enough market power to raise antitrust concerns.

AT&T and Time Warner said they need to combine in order to better compete with Facebook (FB), Amazon (AMZN), Apple (AAPL), Netflix (NFLX) and Google (GOOG), companies that are already powerhouses in the content game. "We look forward to closing the merger on or before June 20 so we can begin to give consumers video entertainment that is more affordable, mobile, and innovative".

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Some critics of President Trump have questioned whether the case was brought as political payback against Time Warner's CNN for unfavorable coverage of President Trump, who often called the cable news channel "fake news".

Bloomberg via Getty Images AT&T CEO and Chairman Randall Stephenson exits federal court in April. Announced in October 2016, it was seized on by then presidential candidate Donald Trump as the sort pf deal his administration would block.

"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.

But AT&T rejected that idea, stating in a court filing that, "Divestitures here would destroy the very consumer value this merger is created to unlock".

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Updated 2:18 pm PT: This story was updated with comments from AT&T and the Justice Department.

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