AT&T-Time Warner Deal Approved By Federal Judge

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AT&T Inc won approval from a United States court on Tuesday to buy Time Warner Inc for $85 billion, without conditions, allowing AT&T to compete with internet companies that dominate digital advertising and providing new sources of revenue.

The U.S. Justice Department is taking AT&T to court.

A Comcast-Fox deal would be another vertical merger, like the AT&T-Time Warner deal.

During the trial, the judge heard from dozens of witnesses, including AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson and Time Warner CEO Jeffrey Bewkes.

The Judge's ruling included a message to the government.

Makan Delrahim, the Justice Department's antitrust chief, said prosecutors were "disappointed" with the decision but did not reveal whether they would seek a stay or appeal the ruling.

In a speech Tuesday morning in Washington, Delrahim reiterated his concern. With no phones or computers allowed into the courtroom, and attendees required to stay until after the judge had left the courtroom, the public was left in the dark for almost 40 minutes Tuesday afternoon as they awaited the decision. "We are going to take the next steps as necessary", he said.

AT&T applauded the court's decision.

After the decision was issued Tuesday, AT&T said it expected to close the Time Warner deal on or before Wednesday, June 20.

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The case was closely followed by an industry amid other M&A deals.

Twenty-First Century Fox jumped 7 percent in extended trade after the ruling on expectations that Comcast and Walt Disney Co could start a bidding war to acquire its media assets.

It's also worth noting that President Trump has been publicly opposed to the deal since he was on the campaign trail.

The merger will consolidate AT&T's telecommunications services with Time Warner's content, which includes some of the biggest names in media like HBO, CNN, and sports broadcasts from the National Basketball Association and NCAA. According to Thomson Reuters, 2018 has seen more than $800 billion worth of U.S. M&A transactions through May, up 71% from a year earlier.

In making its case, the USA government argued that the merger of AT&T could harm consumers in a number of ways.

But government regulators, who brought forth the lawsuit last November, alleged the merger would result in higher prices across the industry. The combined company would have a library that includes HBO's hit Game of Thrones and channels like CNN, along with vast distribution reach through wireless and satellite television services across the country.

Trump, however, repeatedly had blasted the merger, due in no small part to his opposition to CNN, which is owned by Time Warner. Moreover, they argued, the government's case was a "house of cards", since the economic model it relied on to argue higher prices was flawed.

Presidential politics clouded the merger from nearly the moment it was announced. On that same day, then-candidate Donald Trump pledged that his administration would block the deal, saying "As an example of the power structure I'm fighting, AT&T is buying Time Warner and thus CNN, a deal we will not approve in my administration because it's too much concentration of power in the hands of too few".

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