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AT&T does not expect the U.S. Justice Department to prevail as it appeals a court’s approval of the telecom giant’s $85 billion purchase of Time Warner.
“This isn’t a chance for a do-over. It just doesn’t work that way,” AT&T CFO John Stephens said at the Oppenheimer Technology, Internet & Communications Conference in Boston during a session that was webcast.
U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon in June allowed the AT&T-Time Warner merger to move forward over the government’s challenge in a landmark antitrust lawsuit. But a review of the federal judge’s decision to allow the merger has now been fast-tracked, with the Justice Department in a brief arguing the marriage between the nation’s largest telecom and the owner of Warner Bros., Turner Networks (CNN, TBS, TNT) and HBO is a violation of Section 7 of the Clayton Act.
Specifically, the government lawyers raised concern that the merger will mean hundreds of millions of dollars more in annual consumer payments for television programming. But Stephens told the investors conference that Judge Leon did not err in his legal decision to allow the Time Warner acquisition.
“We feel very comfortable that the judge did a detailed, thorough review. And so, from that perspective, we feel good about where we stand. And we’re expecting to continue to move on, in the current state, with the deal closed,” he said.
The DOJ appeal will be closely watched for its legal implications since the first government legal challenge ruled on vertical integration in the media industry, and Wall Street will consider the mergers and acquisitions implications as traditional media players look to get larger to compete against Netflix and other digital insurgents.
According to the schedule accepted by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, AT&T and Time Warner will respond by Sept. 20, with the government then replying Oct. 11. A date for oral arguments hasn’t been set.
“We feel like we got really high-quality assets at a really good price. The marketplace has established that completely,” Stephens added as he touted the merger benefits of the Time Warner deal during the investors conference presentation.
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