AT&T wasted little time celebrating after a federal judge approved its $85 billion acquisition of content giant Time Warner, saying in a statement it will move quickly to close the deal on or before 20 June.
In a ruling handed down today (12 June), Judge Richard Leon rejected the US Department of Justice’s (DoJ) argument the deal would harm competition and consumer choice. He approved the transaction without any conditions.
AT&T general counsel David McAtee said in a statement the operator is “pleased” with the decision and looks forward to offering consumers “video entertainment that is more affordable, mobile and innovative”.
The defeat is the first for the DoJ in an antitrust case since 2004.
Leon’s ruling reaffirmed the government’s tendency to approve deals between companies in non-competing spheres, which are known as vertical mergers. Analysts said the decision paves the way for a flurry of additional merger activity.
Recon Analytics founder Roger Entner told Mobile World Live the loss will make it tougher for DoJ antitrust head Makan Delrahim to fight other tie ups, including the proposed merger between Sprint and T-Mobile US.
“It will make M&A a lot easier because the DoJ has been weakened. Usually the DoJ has an 80 to 90 per cent win record when it comes to suing. The government usually doesn’t lose in court, so that’s a major setback for Makan Delrahim. He has a loss chalked up.”
The victory also means perks could soon be on the way for AT&T customers.
During the trial, AT&T disclosed plans to launch a new OTT video bundle which will include Time Warner channels. The service will cost most users $15 per month, but AT&T said its unlimited wireless customers will gain access for free.