A US judge reiterated a warning AT&T’s proposed closing date for an $85.4 billion acquisition of Time Warner is in jeopardy due to an ongoing legal challenge by the country’s Department of Justice (DoJ).
Judge Richard Leon urged AT&T and DoJ lawyers to accelerate a court battle over the planned acquisition in order to meet the operator’s goal of completing the deal by 21 June, Reuters reported. AT&T and Time Warner would each have the right to abandon the deal if they miss the deadline, the news outlet added.
During a pre-trial hearing, the judge predicted it could take between six and eight weeks for all arguments in the case to be heard, raising questions about whether the already twice extended deadline could be met. DoJ and AT&T lawyers originally expected the trial to take up to four weeks.
Leon said both sides should ensure they are clear on the evidence they need to present rather than becoming bogged down with unnecessary arguments, Reuters reported. In a related report, CNN said the judge noted it will take him time to draw up his opinion after all evidence is heard, with the finished document tipped to be up to 200 pages in length.
The DoJ initiated legal proceedings to block the acquisition in November 2017, explaining it believes the deal would “greatly harm American consumers” by pushing up TV subscription fees and stifling competition.
This week the CEO of Time Warner division Turner, John Martin, disputed the assertion regarding competition, telling the court the company would have no reason to restrict distributors’ access to its content if the acquisition proceeds, Reuters stated.
AT&T penned the deal to acquire Time Warner in October 2016 as part of a move to add content to its wireless and wired network services.