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Justice Department suing AT&T to block purchase of Time Warner

21 November 2017

The U.S. Department of Justice will sue to block the long-awaited merger between AT&T Inc (NYSE: T) and Time Warner Inc (NYSE: TWX), Reuters reported Monday afternoon.

It was slated to be a massive merger of a telecom and a media company - a deal worth $85 billion.

In an emailed statement Monday, AT&T general counsel David McAtee said the lawsuit is a "radical and inexplicable departure from decades of antitrust precedent" and that the company is confident that a court will reject the government's claims.

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AT&T reaffirmed its plans to challenge the government's lawsuit, arguing that its plan is a "vertical" merger without competitive overlap. The antitrust lawsuit announcement followed weeks of speculation that included reports the DOJ demanded AT&T and Time Warner sell Turner Broadcasting, which includes CNN.

By testing the arrangement, the Justice Department is adopting a starkly unique strategy to antitrust issues than the Obama organization did. The Obama administration approved a similar vertical deal in 2011 to allow cable company Comcast Corp to acquire NBCUniversal. After hours, AT&T shares traded slightly higher, Time Warner stock moderately lower.

The lawsuit also said AT&T and Comcast, which control nearly half of the pay-TV market, "would have an increased incentive and ability to harm competition by impending online competitors they consider a threat".

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AT&T's CEO Randall Stephenson, however, has countered that notion and said he was never under pressure to spin off CNN.

The DoJ is reportedly concerned that AT&T would use Time Warner content to force competitors to pay more for content, according to Reuters.

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Justice Department suing AT&T to block purchase of Time Warner