Published: Tue, November 21, 2017
Economy | By Shawn Conner

DOJ sues to block AT&T-Time Warner merger

DOJ sues to block AT&T-Time Warner merger

AT&T said Monday that United States antitrust enforcers filed suit to block its merger with Time Warner, setting up a major court battle over the US$85 billion tie-up.

AT&T and Time Warner are not direct competitors, but the lawsuit alleges that the $108 billion acquisition would substantially lessen competition - allowing AT&T to have distribution control over Time Warner's popular television programming.

The statement from AT&T came ahead of an expected announcement from the US Justice Department.

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It is the latest salvo in a drama more than one year in the making, CNBC reported.

AT&T reaffirmed its plans to challenge the government's lawsuit, arguing that its plan is a "vertical" merger without competitive overlap.

The legal challenge ramps up hostilities after AT&T rejected the Justice Department's demand earlier this month to divest its DirecTV unit or Time Warner's Turner Broadcasting - which contains news network CNN - in order to win antitrust approval. In 2011, for example, the office affirmed a comparative arrangement - Comcast's obtaining of NBCUniversal - in the wake of forcing various conditions on the exchange.

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In the deal, AT&T seeks to vertically integrate its wireless and pay-TV capabilities with Time Warner's video content including Warner Bros. studios and cable channels such as HBO, CNN, TNT and TBS.

The Trump administration has had a strained relationship with the news network.

The Justice Department's lawsuit cited internal Time Warner documents that said long-term contracts to host live sporting events like college basketball and baseball would help allow it to achieve "targeted rate increases".

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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.

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