AT&T Inc.'s wait is finally over.
A U.S. federal judge approved AT&T's US$85 billion (NZ$121 billion) purchase of Time Warner on Tuesday, handing the telecom giant a massive victory that could clip the ambitions of USA regulators seeking to block big corporate tie-ups.
The decision hinges on whether the combination of AT&T's pay-TV and mobile-phone businesses with Time Warner's content would raise prices for consumers.
The fate of the AT&T-Time Warner merger, a massive media deal opposed by the government that could shape how much consumers pay for streaming TV and movies, rests in the hands of a federal judge. Here's a look at the possible scenarios and what could follow. Specifically, he said the government did not show how Turner would have any more leverage with carriers as part of AT&T, nor did they show that AT&T would get an unfair advantage over other carriers. Donald Trump criticized the deal during the 2016 election campaign, and some analysts said the president wanted to block any deal helping Time Warner unit CNN, which he regularly attacks.
Leon ruled that AT&T can buy all of Time Warner without any conditions, such as selling certain assets or agreeing to refrain from raising prices. Now this will be a less of a concern for companies. The executive said yes, explaining that his biggest issue is potentially being forced to accept terms that weren't negotiated and that his company might not be able to honor.
AT&T and Time Warner announced their deal on October 22, 2016, in the midst of the bitterly contested presidential campaign between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. But that doesn't mean he would have to block it. "As we're seeing here, that tends to be a roll of the dice", said Stephenson. Doing that would still allow the deal to proceed. "For AT&T and Time Warner, this is a major victory lap".
Leon's ruling could shape the government's future competition policy.
AT&T applauded the decision in a statement.
McInnis, who observed the entire six-week trial, predicts this outcome is the most likely.
"It's more that they just didn't lose".
BREAKING: AT&T, Time Warner Merger Cleared
The court's approval to merge with Time Warner clears the way for AT&T to launch their new $15 AT&T Watch streaming service.
But Salil K. Mehra, a professor at Temple's Beasley School of Law and an expert on antitrust, said "this is a fearless new world in which leverage issues and the data collection on individuals make it harder to predict what will happen".
Before the trial started, AT&T lawyers said the Time Warner deal may have been singled out for government enforcement but Judge Leon of the US District Court for the District of Columbia rejected their bid to force the disclosure of White House communications that might have shed light on the matter. He cautioned against reading too much into Leon's comments about Shapiro's work.
"We are grateful to the court for seeing it the way we did", Gindseberg said.
AT&T will now control highly sought after programming, including Game of Thrones. That stance reflects Delrahim's view that competition problems arising from a merger should be fixed by selling assets rather than putting behavioral conditions on how a company conducts business. 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.
The Justice Department sued to block AT&T/Time Warner deal in late 2017 as anti-competitive and harmful to consumers. She since met with Delrahim, and on Tuesday urged the DOJ to appeal.
Winning a stay could be challenging.
"The challenge for our time is to understand when vertical transactions can be problematic and when they're not", said Schaeffer, the Milbank Tweed attorney.
"Justice denied and consumers skewered", Copps said.
The government's attorneys could go to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to request an injunction.
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