AT&T and Time Warner win legal battle, confirming the merger

Federal judge approves AT&T merger with Time Warner

AT&T granted approval to acquire Time Warner for $85 billion

U.S. District Judge Richard Leon announced his decision in a packed courtroom, ruling that antitrust enforcers at the Justice Department had not proven their case against the merger...

The deal was hatched in August 2016 when Randall Stephenson, the chief executive of AT&T, called Jeff Bewkes, his counterpart at Time Warner. Comcast, for example, would like to outbid the Walt Disney Co. for some of 21st Century Fox's assets, but has held off until the trial ended.

The District Court Judge Richard Leon determined that the United States government "failed to meet its burden of proof" in their case that this would lessen competition and that they should not seek a stay of his ruling because it would be "manifestly unjust" and unlikely to succeed.

But the most immediate effect of the deal will be on the already consolidated media market.

The ruling is a major victory for the Dallas-based telecom giant, which has waited for about 20 months to move forward with the acquisition of the New York-based media and entertainment company. "We strongly urge the Justice Department to appeal this decision all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary".

AT&T, for its part, insists that legacy media companies can't compete with the rising titans of Amazon and Netflix unless they're allowed to bring content creation and distribution under the same roof.

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"AT&T is buying Time Warner, and thus CNN", Trump told an audience at a campaign stop in Gettysburg, calling the proposed merger an example of a media "power structure" that was working to suppress his vote and the voices of his supporters.

What do you think about AT&T buying Time Warner? Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim, who heads up the antitrust division, said in a statement that he was disappointed in the court's decision and he reiterated the government's belief that the merger will harm consumers.

Vertical integration FTW, said Phillip Fresen, managing director of investment bank Garros Group.

While this court case is decided, the U.S. Department of Justice could appeal the ruling. The Justice Department had argued that letting AT&T (a content distributor) combine with Time Warner (a content creator) would reduce competition between the mobile-phone giant and its rivals, and thus, hurt consumers. 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. It could also threaten to withhold content from Time Warner channels, such as CNN, HBO or TNT, from rival services in order to gain a competitive advantage for AT&T's TV services. The government has argued that Trump did not communicate with antitrust officials over the deal and that their choice to fight the merger was not influenced by the White House.

Trump's antitrust lawyers and regulators have not pursued a consistent line against increased consolidation; under newly elevated Chairman Ajit Pai, a Republican, the FCC has swept away many regulations limiting how many stations a single company can own.

AT&T's stock fell as much as 2.5% and shares were up as much as 5.3% to more than $100 per share in after-hours trading Tuesday.

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