AT&T Likely Would Win Court Fight Over Time Warner, Analysts Say


AT&T could be forced to sell off CNN or DirecTV if the Justice Department is to permit its purchase of Time Warner. Stephenson is set to appear at an event in New York City on Thursday and will likely face questions about the deal. A spokesperson for AT&T stated that the company no longer expects the deal to close this year. But the other two denied that happened, adding that it was in fact AT&T that had proposed the sale of the news network as a potential compromise.

Time Warner shares dropped 6.5 percent to $$88.50 Wednesday.

The Justice Department has warned AT&T it'll sue to block the deal if the telecom conglomerate does not agree to conditions of the deal, say analysts.

According to U.S. Department of Justice officials, AT&T offered just days ago to divest from CNN and later sell the news network.

Most analysts had expected the deal to be approved.

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Accusing CNN of spreading "fake news", President Donald Trump has been at odds with the network since the 2016 election campaign, when he spoke out against the proposed merger of AT&T and Time Warner, Efe news reported.

In an email provided by a DOJ spokeswoman, White House spokesman Raj Shah said that Trump "did not speak with the attorney general about this matter", and that "no White House official was authorized to speak with the Department of Justice on this matter".

Senator Al Franken, a Minnesota Democrat, said on Wednesday he opposed the mega-merger but was also anxious about political implications of any divestiture of CNN.

Diana Moss, president of the American Antitrust Institute, told The New York Times that the "DOJ would have to show that a combined entity has the incentive as a vertically integrated company to foreclose rival content producers and/or rival distributors from access to content".

"I am deeply concerned with the notion that the Justice Department may be pressuring the companies to consider spinning off CNN's parent company Turner Broadcasting as a path forward toward approval of the acquisition, given the president's repeated public complaints about CNN's coverage of him", Franken said.

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A CNN sale reportedly is at the heart of pressure the DOJ is putting on AT&T in order for its blockbuster deal to merge with Time Warner to win federal approval.

Consumer groups, some TV networks and some conservative groups have criticized the deal, saying it would hurt consumers by allowing AT&T to discriminate against TV networks it doesn't own or raise prices on other cable and satellite TV companies for its programming. As a candidate, Donald Trump vowed to block the deal because it concentrated too much "power in the hands of too few".

The two men discussed divestitures that might satisfy the government's concerns.

AT&T also said it would invest an additional $1 billion in the United States next year if Trump signed into law the provisions in the current House of Representatives tax bill.

AT&T sources said the Journal story was an unwelcome surprise.

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