A federal judge Tuesday approved AT&T’s $85 billion merger with Time Warner and imposed no conditions on the deal.
AT&T applauded the decision 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," AT&T General Counsel David McAtee said.
According to several reports, Judge Richard Leon ruled against all three potential antitrust harm theories put forth by the U.S. Justice Department.
Just ruled against DOJ on all three theories of harm. Warns DOJ not to seek emergency stay https://t.co/J1Dshn2jdq— CeciliaKang (@ceciliakang) June 12, 2018
Washington Post reporter Brian Fung said that Leon indicated that any attempt at a stay by the DOJ would be “manifestly unjust” and “damaging to the faith of America’s shareholders.”
DOJ antitrust official Makan Delrahim said the government is disappointed in the court's decision and will consider "next steps."
"We continue to believe that the pay-TV market will be less competitive and less innovative as a result of the proposed merger between AT&T and Time Warner," he said in a statement obtained by CNN.
The ruling potentially closes a deal that was originally announced in October 2016. With the judge’s ruling, AT&T is now clear to take ownership of HBO, Turner Networks—home to CNN, TNT and TBS—as well as Warner Bros. TV Studios and Warner Bros. Pictures.
AT&T has said that it was ready to close the deal and was just awaiting the judge’s ruling in the case.
Late last year, AT&T confirmed that the DOJ was seeking to block the merger and AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson signaled his company’s intent to fight back against the challenge.
“We do not intend to settle this matter out of simple expediency because the rule of law is at issue here. Consistence in the application of the law is critical in a free market economy and it’s equally important for preserving confidence in our government, confidence that they will fairly adjudicate the matters brought before them. When the government suddenly, and without any notice or due process, discards decades of legal precedent, businesses large and small are left with no guideposts. Every business combination or significant investment becomes subject to the whim of a regulator. As we’re seeing here, that tends to be a roll of the dice,” said Stephenson.
This is the first time the DOJ has lost an antitrust challenge since 2004.