Judge Approves AT&T Mega-Merger Over Trump Opposition

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Aetna, which is about to be acquired by CVS Health in a $68 billion deal, had its shares jump 3.5 percent, to $187.00.

"Allowing this merger to proceed raises serious concerns for consumers and the future of American media, and also sends a troubling signal to others that it's open season for vertical mergers that could allow a company to raise the cost of essential products and services that its rivals need to compete, leading to higher costs for consumers and less innovation", Klobuchar said.

Now that a federal judge has approved AT&T's $85 billion takeover of Time Warner, other companies are likely to rush to consolidate.

Using unusually strong language, Leon said it would be "manifestly unjust" for the government to ask him to put his own ruling on hold, because if he were to do so, it could have the effect of killing the deal, which has a deadline for completion of June 21.

In denying any attempt by the government to seek a stay of his ruling during appeal, Leon said AT&T and Time Warner "understandably fear the government will now seek to do indirectly what it couldn't accomplish directly".

"We are pleased that, after conducting a full and fair trial on the merits, the Court has categorically rejected the government's lawsuit to block our merger with Time Warner", AT&T General Counsel David McAtee said.

For cable companies feeling the pain of cord-cutting, similar deals for coveted media brands could help them build out new content offerings and offset expected declines in revenues, analysts and dealmakers told Reuters. The Justice Department had argued that letting AT&T (a content distributor) combine with Time Warner (a content creator) would reduce competition between the mobile-phone giant and its rivals, and thus, hurt consumers.

The nuances of this case are important, as the implications of this decision reach far beyond the individual businesses of AT&T and Time Warner to the vast media landscape as a whole.

Trump court move on Obamacare
The Trump administration's stance is a rare departure from the Justice Department's practice of defending federal laws in court. California and 15 other states also filed a brief Thursday to intervene and defend the ACA and its consumer protections.

The lawsuit against AT&T had cast a pall over that activity, as a sign that the Department of Justice, under new Trump appointees, was taking a more hard line stance to mega-deals.

Still, at least one company, Comcast, the largest US cable provider, had been waiting for the court decision before making any large M&A moves in media, sources have said. CNBC reports that Comcast will immediately move forward with its all-cash offer for 21st Century Fox assets if the judge approves the deal.

Some critics of President Trump have questioned whether the case was brought as political payback against Time Warner's CNN for unfavorable coverage of President Trump, who often called the cable news channel "fake news".

"This will be a blockbuster summer for media mergers", said Mary Ann Halford, senior adviser to OC&C Strategy Consultants.

Leon said the evidence and testimony provided by the government were faulty and that it never proved the merged entity would have increased leverage over its competitors. Remember, Time Warner owns CNN, which is the object of some of Trump's most focused hatred.

The Time Warner deal is a crucial achievement for Stephenson, who views AT&T as competing with Google, Facebook, Netflix and other Silicon Valley giants.

For starters, expect Comcast to make a bid for Fox's entertainment business as early as Wednesday. Trump weighed in again after the justice department filed its suit: "Personally, I've always felt that that was a deal that's not good for the country".

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