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USA judge clears AT&T merger with Time Warner

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U.S. District Judge Richard Leon is expected to announce in court Tuesday his decision in the biggest antitrust trial in years.

Today's ruling comes as part of the antitrust lawsuit levied by the Justice Department past year.

"This decision from Judge Leon will have broad ramifications for the tech, telecommunications and media sector for decades to come", Daniel Ives, the chief strategy officer at GBH Insights, told Business Insider in an email before the decision was handed down.

Investors are welcoming a federal judge's approval of AT&T's $85 billion takeover of Time Warner. Deals such as this one, in which the two companies are in related industries but do not produce competing products, are usually approved by federal regulators. The Trump Justice Department sued to block the $85 billion merger, arguing that it would hurt competition in pay TV and cost consumers more to stream TV and movies.

"We want people engaged with their mobile devices all day watching movies and video", Stephenson said in April during the trial.

"I understand that some journalists and observers have recently expressed concern that the antitrust division no longer believes that vertical mergers can be efficient and beneficial to competition and consumers", he said.

The lawyer added that the merger would be completed no later than June 20 of this year. If it's not wrapped up by then, either company could walk away, and AT&T would have to pay a $500 million breakup fee.

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The Justice Department had repeatedly suggested the judge consider forcing AT&T to divest some of Time Warner's cable channels. It claims about 25 million of the 90 million or so USA households that are pay-TV customers. The company could offer to sell off assets that the government says could contribute to anti-competitive practices.

Rival cable company Comcast is now likely to go ahead with its planned attempt to woo Twenty-First Century Fox Inc away from Walt Disney Co, which said it would acquire most assets of the media company for around $50 billion past year. Comcast and Verizon are also jockeying for position in the new landscape.

On the campaign trail Trump argued that a combined AT&T/Time Warner was "too much concentration of power in the hands of too few". Time Warner owns HBO, Warner Bros., and Turner Broadcasting System.

It's about how and where we consume content and it's about the data that companies like Netflix, Facebook and Amazon collect on viewing habits and consumer behavior that gives them a leg up over companies like Time Warner and AT&T.

In making its case, the USA government argued that the merger of AT&T could harm consumers in a number of ways. The companies rejected both options. In fact, he suggested, consumers could end up paying less after a merger - maybe even $500 million less annually.

Time Warner gained as much as 5.8 percent in after-hours trading, while AT&T fell as much as 3.9 percent.

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".

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