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Judge clears AT&T-Time Warner deal, rebuking Trump administration

AFP  |  Washington 

A US today approved the USD 85 billion merger of wireless and giant with Time Warner, delivering a stinging rebuke to in its first major antitrust court case.

Federal said the government had failed to meet its burden of proof that the tie-up between the largest US pay-TV operator and the would harm competition.

The case had been closely watched as setting a benchmark for other big corporate mergers, especially in the media and

Leon said the case fell short on all counts and warned the government against seeking to hold up the deal with an appeal, saying that would cause "irreparable" harm to the two companies whose tie-up has been delayed for a year and a half.

"There would be no irreparable harm to the government (with a delay), only to the companies," Leon told the packed courtroom in an unusual session to announce his opinion.

"The government has taken its best shot and lost." Leon's 172-page ruling was a total victory for the companies, saying the government failed to back up its three theories of harm to consumers from the mega-merger.

He maintained that the government's claim that costs would rise from the tie-up was based on "speculative" logic and that its study from an expert witness was contradicted by other evidence from the government.

Daniel Petrocelli, who led the legal team for the two companies, told reporters outside the courthouse that the decision marked a "sound and proper" repudiation of the government's case.

"We're disappointed that it has taken 18 months to get here but we're relieved that it's finally behind us," Petrocelli told reporters.

He said the ruling "stands as a testament to the wisdom of the combination of these two great companies and how it will benefit consumers for generations to come." said in a statement he was pleased with the outcome and expected the deal would be closed by June 20.

The deal brings together AT&T's wireless and networks and its subscription service with the of Time Warner, which include and other Turner cable channels, Cartoon Network, premium channel and the studios.

Makan Delrahim, of the Justice Department's Antitrust Division, said the government was considering its next steps.

"We are disappointed with the court's decision today," he said in a statement.

"We continue to believe that the pay-will be less competitive and less innovative as a result of the proposed merger between and " of the group said he expected the government would appeal.

"In the meantime, not only may consumers be harmed directly by the anticompetitive harms that this merger will cause, such as higher bills and fewer choices of programming and provider, but also by the many other mergers it will encourage," Bergmayer said.

Some analysts say the court approval offers an effective green light to other major deals, including offer to buy key film and television assets of and the T-Mobile/agreement in wireless.

AT&T and argue they need more scale to compete with like and and with Silicon Valley giants like Google, and Apple, which are expanding in the rapidly evolving sector.

said the clear approval opens the door to AT&T offering new kinds of services and packages that can tie into 5G, or fifth-generation

"Imagine AT&T giving free and free to every AT&T wireless subscriber," Wolk said.

meanwhile gets better viewership data to more effectively compete against like Netflix, which "will make it easier for them to better target ads," Wolk added.

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

First Published: Wed, June 13 2018. 11:50 IST