AT&T’s $85 billion deal to acquire Time Warner can proceed, a U.S. District Court judge ruled today, after the Department of Justice sued to block the transaction.
In November, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a civil antitrust lawsuit to block AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner, maintaining that deal would limit competition, leading to higher prices for consumers. The stock and cash transaction was announced in October 2016.
“I simply cannot evaluate the government’s theories and predictions of harm…without factoring in the dramatic changes that are transforming how consumers view video content,” Judge Richard Leon said in his ruling. Leon said that the “government has failed to meet its burden to show that the proposed merger is likely to substantially lessen competition by increasing Turner’s leverage in affiliate negotiations.” He also said that the Department of Justice had failed to show that the merger would lessen competition by enabling AT&T to “harm virtual MVPDs through its ownership of Time Warner content.” In addition, the government was unable to prove that competition would be lessened by AT&T “restricting distributors’ use of HBO as a promotional tool.”
AT&T General Counsel David McAtee said in a statement: “We are pleased that, after conducting a full and fair trial on the merits, the Court has categorically rejected the government’s lawsuit to block our merger with Time Warner. We thank the Court for its thorough and timely examination of the evidence, and we compliment our colleagues at the Department of Justice on their dedicated representation of the government. 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.”
The approval of the Time Warner and AT&T deal is expected to pave the way for Comcast to announce an offer to take on Disney for 21st Century Fox’s assets.