US: AT&T-Time Warner mega-merger case dismissed

AT&T won approval on Tuesday, June 12, to buy Time Warner, in one of the largest antitrust cases in decades, reported the Wall Street Journal.

Judge Richard Leon of the US District Court for the District of Columbia said at a hearing that he has found, after a six-week trial, that the deal does not violate antitrust law and can proceed.

The decision, in one of the biggest antitrust cases in decades, is a milestone victory for AT&T as it looks to reposition itself in a rapidly evolving media landscape. Its deal for Time Warner, valued at roughly US$80 billion, has been pending since October 2016.

The acquisition means AT&T will be the nation’s top pay-TV distributor, through its ownership of DirecTV, as well as the owner of some of the country’s most sought-after channels: Time Warner’s Turner networks, including CNN, TBS and TNT, as well as HBO, the most popular US premium network.

The case marked the first time in 40 years that a court had seen a fully litigated challenge to a so-called vertical merger, which has provoked much commentary that combines companies at different links in the same supply chain, reported WSJ. Such cases are considered more difficult for the government to win than the typical “horizontal” merger case, where the government challenges the combination of two head-to-head rivals and the loss of competition is more apparent.

Both the government and the companies had been considering appellate options in case they lost, according to people familiar with the matter.

In an unusual turn, the judge said he hoped the Justice Department would have the “wisdom” not to seek an emergency stay of his ruling, saying such a legal maneuver would be “manifestly unjust” to AT&T and Time Warner.

Read the full decision here

Full Content: Wall Street Journal

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