AT&T executives are confident that the proposed $85.4 billion takeover of Time Warner will receive a regulatory green light, said the Financial Times.
Despite President-elect Donald Trump’s rhetoric on the campaign trail, the operator is reassured by the appointment to his transition team of two antitrust officials with a light-touch track record on takeovers.
“As an example of the power structure I’m fighting,” Trump said in October, “AT&T is buying Time Warner and thus CNN, a deal we will not approve in my administration because it’s too much concentration of power in the hands of too few.”
The statement caused concern for AT&T, but subsequently the President-elect appointed Joshua Wright, a former Federal Trade Commissioner with Republican views on competition policy, meaning he is generally less likely to challenge takeovers than a Democrat, along with David Higbee, who worked for the George W Bush administration, to his transition team.
According to people familiar with the conversations between AT&T and the transition team, the operator is now confident about passing regulatory scrutiny.
However, critics have argued the operator can use control of Time Warner content to favour their own subscribers, as well as narrow choice and jack up prices. Defenders of the deal point out it does not concentrate market power in the mobile market, so should be less worthy of scrutiny than a merger between two operators.