Justice Department to appeal approval of AT&T acquisition of Time Warner

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The U.S. Justice Department said on Thursday it would appeal a federal judge's approval of AT&T Inc's $85.4 billion USA acquisition of Time Warner, raising the prospect that the deal could be undone. "We are ready to defend the (lower court ruling) at the DC Circuit Court of Appeals".

A notice of appeal was filed yesterday with a federal appeals court one month after Judge Richard Leon rejected the government's efforts to block the $85 billion deal following a weeks-long antitrust trial. The final stages of the acquisition went through shortly after. The resulting AT&T-Time Warner megacompany retained ownership of Warner Bros., HBO and Turner. When the deal was announced nearly three weeks before the 2016 election, then Republican nominee Donald Trump rejected the transaction by stating, "It's too much concentration of power in the hands of too few".

AT&T Chief Executive Randall Stephenson told reporters on Thursday at a conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, that the company was not surprised about the Justice Department's decision to appeal.

"The court's decision could hardly have been more thorough, fact-based, and well-reasoned", AT&T General Counsel David McAtee said in a statement responding to the Justice Department's move.

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This fuelled speculation that Trump could be retaliating due to critical coverage of his administration from news broadcaster CNN, which was part of Time Warner. Still, the Justice Department apparently believes it has an adequate legal basis to show an error in Leon's ruling, Schaeffer said.

It has committed to certain conditions under which it will run Time Warner's Turner Broadcasting, which includes CNN.

With control over a significant portion of the content, AT&T is now in a good place to keep prices high among rivals and prevent streaming TV services from offering cut-price cable alternatives. The day after Leon delivered his ruling, Comcast made a $65 billion offer for 21st Century Fox, in an attempt to outbid Disney for Fox's entertainment assets.

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