Justice Department appeals approval of Time Warner-AT&T merger

Smartphone with AT&T logo is seen in front of displayed Time Warner logo in this

Justice Department Appeals AT&T-Time Warner Merger Decision

The U.S. Justice Department said on Thursday it would appeal a federal judge's approval of AT&T Inc's $85.4 billion United States acquisition of Time Warner, raising the prospect that the deal could be undone. Rest assured, this battle is far from over.

The U.S. Department of Justice on Thursday filed an appeal to challenge a federal judge's ruling last month that paved the way for AT&T's mega merger with Time Warner.

David McAtee, AT&T's general counsel, said the company is "ready to defend" the judge's decision. Opposing the merger forced the federal antitrust regulators to argue against standing legal doctrine that favors mergers among companies that don't compete directly with each other.

The Justice Department will take their appeal to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals.

Spokespeople for the DOJ declined to comment.

"My guess is that the government is going to try to show that a lot of important evidence was rejected by the judge, and the judge put too much weight on the testimony of the merging parties", said Gene Kimmelman, a former Justice Department antitrust official who now leads Public Knowledge, a consumer advocacy group that opposed the merger.

Critics argued that the deal is not materially dissimilar to the NBC Universal/Comcast deal that already went through a few years ago, and some analysts argued that Time Warner was being singled out for enforcement due to U.S. President Donald Trump's dislike for the Time Warner-owned CNN. AT&T asserted during the trial that it needed to grow to survive in the era of Google, Amazon and Netflix. Trump has publicly feuded with Time Warner's CNN, calling it "failing" and a purveyor of "fake news". He did say that AT&T would have to temporarily operate Time Warner's Turner networks separately from DirecTV. This decision to appeal could have been made at the highest levels of the Trump administration. Just a day after Leon ruled, Comcast launched a $65 billion cash bid for the bulk of 21st Century Fox - topping Disney's all-stock $52.5 billion offer in December.

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