Judge approves AT&T-Time Warner merger opposed by Trump

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This will marry AT&T's distribution services with Time Warner's media content, making one mega-company.

Critics charged that Trump had come out against the deal because of Time Warner's CNN, which has been highly critical of his presidency.

On the campaign trail in October 2016, then-candidate Donald Trump spoke in Gettysburg, Pa.

"We continue to believe that the pay-TV market will be less competitive and less innovative as a result of the proposed merger between AT&T and Time Warner", he said in a statement.

The judge said that the Department of Justice did not sufficiently meet its burden of proving that the deal would allow AT&T to harm rival TV providers.

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Leon - who presided over the Justice Department's suit against Comcast's acquisition of NBCUniversal that was settled with a consent decree - signaled his time table to announce his decision on AT&T for Tuesday at 4 p.m., giving the company and the Justice Department time to settle the case.

Beyond its wireless network and internet service, AT&T acquired DirecTV in a US$67b deal in 2015, which also had the blessings of government regulators.

Investors are now also expecting major media consolidation, with Twenty-First Century Fox Inc shares rising more than 6 percent in after-market trading.

The biggest impact of this deal will be felt quickly, as Comcast will now formally make an offer to Fox for the majority of its assets. As reported by CNBC, the global telecommunications conglomerate was willing to offer $60B in cash for the Rupert Murdoch-founded company.

Much smaller potential media targets like CBS (the parent company of CBS News) and Viacom (VIA) saw shares spike 2.7 percent and 3.3 percent, respectively, on the news. That's not to say that vertical mergers get through regulatory approval free and clear - the FTC has fought 22 vertical mergers since 2000 - but they receive less scrutiny than horizontal mergers.

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A ruling for AT&T and Time Warner would not only give the green light for the merger, but it could unleash a flurry of other deals.

The Justice Department's antitrust chief Makan Delrahim did not rule out an appeal or a stay. "Should be interesting, although I certainly wouldn't count Disney out".

A merged AT&T-Time Warner could, in principle, refuse to supply content to some distributors in order to drive consumers to purchase its own access and content bundles, but it would not be in the merged company's financial interest to do so.

For its part, AT&T was cheering the decision. In addition, T-Mobile and Sprint are direct competitors, so their merger is perhaps more likely to be seen as anti-competitive than a union of AT&T and Time Warner.

During the trial, the judge heard from dozens of witnesses, including AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson and Time Warner CEO Jeffrey Bewkes.

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The deal cost AT&T's top lobbyist, Bob Quinn, his job in May after it became public that AT&T had paid Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen $600,000 for advice on winning approval. (AT&T, however, said it is in favor of limited net neutrality laws and has advocated for a national policy).

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