Tuesday, 21 November, 2017

AT&T ready to fight United States on Time Warner deal: CEO

Government's holdup of AT&T's acquisition of Time Warner worries some Rupert Murdoch 'interested in buying CNN' after reports Trump administration may force AT&T to sell it
Edmund Wade | 12 November, 2017, 01:56

AT&T's chief executive, Randall Stephenson, said this week he has no intention of selling CNN or making any other major divestments.

The deal's holdup has raised suspicions of political retaliation - even from people who oppose the deal entirely. The White House has also said that Trump has not spoken to Attorney General Jeff Sessions about the matter, nor were any White House officials authorized to speak to DOJ on it. CNN has been a favorite punching bag for Trump, who has maligned the network repeatedly on the campaign trail, after winning last year's election, and since taking office this January.

Trump's comments have provoked concern that he may improperly influence the US Department of Justice to block the deal. As president, Trump has often blasted CNN for its coverage of him and his administration, disparaging it and its reporters as "fake news". But AT&T has said it doesn't want to lose the all-news network in the deal.

If AT&T and DOJ cannot agree to conditions, the government can sue to block the deal. Obama-era regulators in 2011 approved a similar media merger, cable company Comcast's purchase of NBCUniversal, after Comcast agreed to a slew of business requirements.

This week, Delrahim and other agency officials told AT&T that the deal as it now stands raises anti-competition concerns, and that the company will need to shed some assets, perhaps either Turner or DirecTV. On Wall Street, Time Warner fell 6.5 percent to close at $88.50, while AT&T shares jumped 1.1 percent to close at $33.44.

The president has frequently referred to CNN as "fake news".

In court, AT&T would have the upper hand, said Geoffrey Manne, executive director of Portland-based think tank International Center for Law and Economics. "It's hard to imagine an antitrust argument that will be compelling" from the government, he said.

The DoJ has said it does not comment on ongoing investigations.

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