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Judge weighs what evidence U.S. can use to block AT&T, Time Warner merger

Reuters  |  WASHINGTON 

By and David Shepardson

(Reuters) - Inc sought to persuade a on Monday to throw out evidence the government seeks to use in a trial that begins this week to show that the company's $85 billion acquisition of Inc would harm consumers and competitors.

The Justice Department filed a lawsuit in November to stop the U.S. No. 2 wireless carrier, which owns and other services with 25 million subscribers, from buying and TV Time Warner, which owns and Opening arguments in the trial, which could shape the future of U.S. ownership, are set for Wednesday before in

On Monday, Daniel Petrocelli, the for AT&T, argued that many exhibits that the government planned to bring should be rejected either because they were irrelevant or because the person writing them was not a decision-maker.

Petrocelli objected, for example, to a document from that was written before it was acquired by that warned of the dangers of higher prices because of a previous merger. The Justice Department's defended the decision to present it. "They are also a market participant," he said.

Welsh also indicated that an from Google's could testify on the importance of the to rivals, which would help show AT&T's future ability to raise prices.

rejected settlement offers from the Justice Department, including government proposals to shed either its division or Time Warner's Turner Broadcasting assets, which include

The government has argued that the deal could allow a more powerful AT&T to raise prices for rivals and subscribers while hampering the development of They estimate it will hike a subscriber's monthly cable bill by 45 cents.

AT&T denies that prices would rise and plans to argue the deal is necessary for it to compete with companies like , , Inc and , according to court documents filed before the trial.

AT&T Randall Stephenson, and programming executives from rival companies are expected to testify during the trial that the has estimated would last six to eight weeks.

Looming over the trial is the question of whether U.S. Donald Trump, who criticized the deal on the campaign trail and again as president, may have influenced the Justice Department's decision to oppose the transaction.

AT&T lawyers have said the deal may have been singled out for enforcement, citing Trump's statements that the deal was bad for consumers and the country.

Leon last month rejected a bid by AT&T to force the government to disclose any communications that AT&T lawyers believe may have shed light on the matter. AT&T did not raise any arguments relating to Trump in its final pretrial brief filed earlier this month.

The outcome of the AT&T/Time Warner case could affect other pending "vertical" mergers, in which different parts of a supply chain, rather than rivals in the same business, join together. wants to buy and wants to acquire Aetna Inc .

(Reporting by and David Shepardson; Editing by Bill Rigby and Lisa Shumaker)

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, March 20 2018. 00:35 IST