Judge approves AT&T-Time Warner deal

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

A United States federal judge on Tuesday cleared the mega merger between AT&T and Time Warner in an antitrust case with potential far-reaching implications.

"This decision from Judge Leon will have broad ramifications for the tech, telecommunications and media sector for decades to come", said Daniel Ives, the chief strategy officer at GBH Insights.

Leaving the courtroom, Makan Delrahim, head of the Justice department's antitrust division, said that he would read the judge's opinion before making a decision on an appeal. Looming in the background of the deal has been Trump's long-running feud with Time Warner's CNN, which he has often derided as "failing" and a purveyor of "fake news".

Leon said the government had "taken its best shot" to oppose the merger.

Leon rejected the notion of temporarily suspending the merger for a possible appeal by the government.

The Justice Department has not brought a suit seeking to stop a vertical merger - whereby companies operating in different spaces combine - since 1979.

AT&T in a six-week trial argued that the purchase of Time Warner would allow it to gain information about viewers needed to target digital advertising, much like Facebook Inc and Alphabet Inc's Google already do.

The government estimated costs to industry rivals, such as Charter Communications Inc, would increase by $US580 million a year if AT&T owned Time Warner. Announced in October 2016, it was seized on by then presidential candidate Donald Trump as the sort pf deal his administration would block.

Courts To M&A Bankers “Everbody Gets Laid!”
BREAKING: AT&T, Time Warner Merger Cleared

The trial is also a landmark for the entire industry, as companies like Disney, Fox and Comcast wait to see how the judge rules before moving ahead with their own mega deals.

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

On the campaign trail Trump argued that a combined AT&T/Time Warner was "too much concentration of power in the hands of too few".

The ruling is a stinging defeat for the Justice Department. The government's star witness was Carl Shapiro, an economist at the University of California, who used an economic model to predict that consumer cable bills could rise by $500 million annually in aggregate by 2021. 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.

Judge Richard Leon said the U.S. government failed to meet the burden of proof that the tie up between the largest United States pay TV operator and media entertainment giant Time Warner would harm competition.

With control over a significant portion of the content, AT&T is now in a good place to keep prices high among rivals and prevent streaming TV services from offering cut-price cable alternatives.

"We are disappointed with the Court's decision today", a spokesperson for the agency said in a statement.

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