News Worms
News Worms

AT&T CEO says open to litigation on Time Warner deal

AT&T CEO says open to litigation on Time Warner deal

AT&T on Thursday named Kirk McDonald the chief marketing officer of a new advertising and analytics unit it has set up to work with the new Time Warner properties.

The company has opposed divesting assets and has told the government it is willing to fight in court to win approval, sources said on Wednesday.

A lot of different options are on the table for how to proceed, Justice Department officials said.

Before he was nominated by Trump, Delrahim had briefly delved into the AT&T-Time Warner deal in a television interview, telling Canada's BNN in October 2016 that "from a technical standpoint, I think these folks would have an easier route toward approval than a merger of two competitors", he said.

Shares of Time Warner fell about 6 per cent to $89.00, while AT&T shares fell 0.2 per cent before climbing 1.16 per cent to $33.46. Opponents are pushing for conditions that would limit AT&T's ability to charge media rivals higher prices to carry Time Warner content. "Beyond that, the Department does not comment on any pending investigation".

The Justice Department has been reviewing the merger since early this year.

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, in an on-stage interview in NY, said he had no reason to believe a "Trump factor" was influencing or interfering in the review.

If AT&T and Justice cannot agree to conditions, the Justice Department can sue to block the purchase - something looking more likely.

Halting the deal between AT&T and Time Warner would require regulators to prove that previous mergers had resulted in worse service for consumers and that shedding assets would be better than behavioral remedies.

The Justice Department is supposed to make merger reviews based exclusively on antitrust law.

A Department of Justice official told ABC News that AT&T offered to sell CNN as part of the deal.

Trump assailed the merger on the campaign trail, saying the tie-up would concentrate media power.

Time Warner is an industry heavyweight that owns Warner Bros movie studio, the cable channel HBO, and Turner Broadcasting.

Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat who delayed Delrahim's confirmation for weeks, asked the antitrust chief last month to recuse himself from the review because of those comments.

One Justice Department source told CNBC that the idea of shedding CNN to complete the deal originated with AT&T, a contention that drew an immediate denial from the Dallas-based firm.

But she also said its review should be free from White House influence.

However, he stated that the company was unconcerned with the amount of time spent on the issue. Until now negotiations with the companies had focused on conduct remedies, according to one of the people.

"Any political interference in antitrust enforcement is unacceptable", she said. "The Justice Department appears to be doing its job", he said in a statement.


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