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AT&T CEO confident Time Warner deal on solid ground

Reuters 

By and Sonam Rai

(Reuters) - The has only a remote chance of overturning Inc's takeover of Time Warner, said on Friday, adding that the move could affect the bidding war for Twenty-First Century Fox Inc .

Shares of fell 1.7 percent to close at $31.67 on Friday after U.S. officials signalled they would appeal a federal judge's approval last month of the $85.4 billion deal.

Speaking on CNBC, Stephenson said the original court decision was well reasoned.

"At the end of the day the law was on our side," he said. "We think the likelihood of this thing being reversed or overturned is really remote."

The merger, first announced in October 2016, was opposed by U.S. was sued by the Justice Department on antitrust grounds but concluded the government failed to show that prices would go up and allowed the deal to go forward.

rating agency said in a statement it believed the original decision will be upheld, but acknowledged the three-appeals court panel could disagree. said in a statement AT&T's ratings remain unchanged.

downgraded AT&T from outperform to market perform on of the planned appeal, saying it is a "negative catalyst for the stock."

"This is a significant overhang for an extended period and is not conducive to share price appreciation," he wrote.

Approval of the deal last month triggered further moves in a bidding war between Corp and over the bulk of Twenty-First Century Fox Inc's film and TV assets. Disney has received U.S. antitrust approval for the purchase.

Stephenson told the dispute could hurt Comcast's chances of prevailing. is a major cable provider while AT&T owns

"It does affect that process. You're in a situation where two entities are bidding for an asset and this kind of action can affect the outcome," he said.

In Washington, Makan Delrahim, the in charge of the Justice Department's antitrust division, recently defended the decision to file its initial lawsuit last year.

"The division made multiple settlement offers involving divestitures, but the parties offered and would accept only so-called 'behavioural' remedies involving promises to refrain from anticompetitive conduct," Delrahim wrote in an op-ed in Times on Thursday.

Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat, backed the appeal. "The moment it acquired Time Warner, AT&T showed its true face and raised prices for consumers," he said on

AT&T has recently announced price increases. It raised the price for with some unlimited data plans by $5 per month and informed customers it was increasing the price of its Now by $5 per month.

"We're not as sure as everyone else that Leon's ruling will be upheld on appeal," analysts from brokerage MoffettNathanson wrote.

(Reporting by and Vibhuti Sharma, Additional reporting by Gaurika Juneja, Diane Bartz, and Sheila Dang; editing by and Tom Brown)

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sat, July 14 2018. 03:30 IST
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