U.S. judge clears AT&T merger with Time Warner

Courts To M&A Bankers “Everbody Gets Laid!”

It’s official: AT&T can merge with Time Warner

A combination photo shows the Time Warner shares price at the New York Stock Exchange and AT&T logo in New York, NY, U.S., on November 15, 2017 and on October 23, 2016 respectively.

The planned deal 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.

President Donald Trump, who has advocated for the blocking of the deal, has criticized CNN for its coverage of his election campaign and his administration. 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. But looking beyond today, the merger could have a strong effect on future deals. It could also set in motion a series of mega deals across industries.

U.S. District Judge Richard Leon is expected to announce in court Tuesday his decision in the biggest antitrust trial in years. He issued his decision in a closed-door room with reporters, and reportedly urged the government not to seek a stay.

"That's a legal shocker." said J.B. Heaton, an attorney and consultant on litigation and regulatory proceedings.

Other companies considering acquisitions have been eyeing the case as a bellwether on whether their mergers would go unchallenged. Post-merger, AT&T rivals like Charter Communications and Cox, which now pay Time Warner for its channels, would suddenly also become AT&T's customers.

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.

A rejection might have chilled possible multibillion-dollar deals involving other media companies. The decision now rests with Judge Leon because the Justice Department sued AT&T to block the merger. 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".

Courts To M&A Bankers “Everbody Gets Laid!”

"Put me on the side of the fence of thinking that AAG (Makan) Delrahim is interested in challenging the next problematic vertical transaction", she said.

AT&T General Counsel David McAtee now expects its purchase of Time Warner to close by June 20. AT&T asked the court to focus on the former. It's about how and where we consume content and it's about the data that companies like Netflix, Facebook and Amazon collect on viewing habits and consumer behavior that gives them a leg up over companies like Time Warner and AT&T.

CNN is owned by Time Warner. For instance, AT&T could charge other content providers (including Verizon, which owns HuffPost's parent company, Oath) artificially high prices to air the cable channels it acquired through Time Warner. AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson also said past year, "You shouldn't expect that we would sell something larger [than CNN] to get the deal done".

The ruling could also have implications for CBS Corp's potential tie-up with Viacom Inc, which is already uncertain because of a lawsuit between CBS's controlling shareholder, Shari Redstone, and its board.

Corporate America had closely watched the case and the decision is likely to lead to more mergers.

"It's more that they just didn't lose".

AT&T disputed the government's math, and tried to prove that President Trump meddled in the government's merger review.

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