Monday, 17 December, 2018

Breaking Down The AT&T-Time Warner Decision

AT&T has completed its $81 billion takeover of Time Warner one of the biggest media deals ever AT&T has completed its $81 billion takeover of Time Warner one of the biggest media deals ever. | AP
Lora Ball | 14 June, 2018, 03:17

Makan Delrahim, the Trump appointee and head of the Justice Department's Antitrust Division, made it clear in 2017 that he did not believe that temporary merger conditions that restricted big corporations worked as intended, leading to anti-competitive behavior. He teaches constitutional law in the political science department at the University of California, San Diego, and practices at the firm Constantine Cannon.

The $85 billion merger between AT&T and Time Warner was approved Tuesday.

The court's decision in the case could have an enormous impact on the media landscape and the fate of future corporate mega-mergers.

Today's ruling comes as part of the antitrust lawsuit levied by the Justice Department previous year.

The judge didn't buy that.

The Time Warner deal is a crucial achievement for Stephenson, who views AT&T as competing with Google, Facebook, Netflix and other Silicon Valley giants.

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

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Murdoch, 87, also wasn't swayed by Comcast's overtures because the cable company didn't offer a breakup fee. As such, Comcast has improved an offer it discussed with Fox previous year by saying it's offering $2.5 billion in case the deal doesn't go through and would reimburse Fox for another $1.5 billion it will owe Disney for breaking their arrangement.

In a scathing opinion, Leon concluded that the government had failed to show competitive harm and urged the USA government not to seek a stay of his ruling pending a potential appeal, saying it would be "manifestly unjust" to do so and not likely to succeed. "I think we'll see now that companies will be much more confident about vertical mergers", he added, referring to deals where a company merges with a supplier.

The DOJ filed suit against AT&T in November of past year, claiming that if the deal were allowed to go through, Time Warner's Turner television networks could be withheld from competing TV carriers or licensed at such a high cost as to give AT&T (who also owns DirecTV) an unfair advantage over its competitors.

Shares of AT&T spiked immediately after the announcement and are now down about 2% in after-hours trading. 21st Century Fox already agreed in December to sell those assets to Disney, which include all of the movie studio 20th Century Fox, a stake in Hulu, their stake in global broadcaster Sky and many regional sports channels, among other assets.

UBS analyst John Hodulik said the deal could accretive to EPS but that the long-term effect will depend on AT&T's ability to leverage Time Warner's content and accelerate the advanced advertising business.

Roberts also pointed to the lengthy track record of Comcast, a Philadelphia-based company that began as a collection of cable systems steered by Brian Roberts' industry-legend father, Ralph. It was, Trump said, "a deal we will not approve in my administration".

AT&T, which has invested heavily in a streaming video service called DirecTV Now, is free to bulk up its original programming with Time Warner content. But Leon blocked discovery on certain White House communications AT&T and Time Warner sought, and ultimately the companies dropped that defense, choosing to litigate the case on pure anti-trust grounds. The purchase of Time Warner would give AT&T the premium television content it needed to make its bundle of wireless, television and broadband services more attractive to customers.

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