AT&T, Time Warner Merger Approved by Judge

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Comcast made good on its plans to make an offer for 21st Century Fox's film and TV assets today, with a cash bid of $65 billion, or $35 per share.

The deal focuses on the famed Fox Hollywood film and television studios, along with its cable entertainment networks and global TV businesses.

Disney already struck a $52.4 billion all-stock deal to buy the Fox properties, but Comcast announced that it is making an all-cash offer to "provide [Fox] shareholders with certain value and immediate liquidity". In more recent times, sources claimed Comcast was putting together a $60 billion bid.

Under both the Disney and Comcast proposals, Fox would create a new company to hold onto its news and sports businesses, including Fox News.

Comcast originally outbid Disney back in December of a year ago, but Fox entered into a loose agreement with Disney largely partially because of fears about government regulations and antitrust concerns.

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John Bergmayer, senior counsel at the consumer group Public Knowledge, said the decision could have long-lasting negative effects thanks to "the many other mergers it will encourage".

The deal was hatched in August 2016 when Randall Stephenson, the chief executive of AT&T, called Jeff Bewkes, his counterpart at Time Warner. In 2011, when Comcast made a decision to merge with NBCUniversal, the FTC and DOJ imposed conditions to mitigate the deal's harm on competition within the media industry.

Disney itself has "surgically" structured a transaction that "might be doable", avoiding Fox Broadcasting and big Fox sports channels, US antitrust chief Makan Delrahim said last week.

In the most high-profile antitrust case in decades, the ruling is likely to set a benchmark for whether other mega-deals, especially in the media and communications sectors, can proceed or will face heightened antitrust scrutiny. Fox has a pending deal for the rest of the broadcaster, which it agreed to pass off to Disney.

At&T and Time Warner argue they need more scale to compete with online rivals like Netflix and Amazon and with Silicon Valley giants like Google, Facebook and Apple which are expanding in the sector.

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Justice Department lawyers who tried to stop AT&T's $85 billion deal expect consumers will lose out as bigger companies raise prices, and some lawyers saw that as a concern in a Comcast-Fox deal which would put two movie studios and two major television brands under one roof.

Leon of the U.S. District Court in Washington, said the Justice Department had not proved that the telecom company's acquisition of Time Warner would lead to fewer choices for consumers and higher prices for television and internet services.

Roberts wrote in his letter that Comcast is "highly confident" its offer will "obtain all necessary regulatory approvals in a timely manner".

The court approval ended a heated antitrust battle, and suggested Comcast would be able to clear any regulatory hurdles to a deal with Fox.

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