WASHINGTON — AT&T’s $85.4 billion acquisition of media giant Time Warner can proceed, a federal judge said Tuesday.
U.S. District Judge Richard Leon ruled that the combined companies do not pose a danger to consumers, a decision that amounts to a resounding win for the two companies.
Leon ruled that AT&T can buy all of Time Warner without any conditions, such as selling certain assets or agreeing to refrain from raising prices. Industry analysts had expected AT&T to win, but many speculated that the judge would force the company to agree to certain measures.
The judge, based in Washington, has spent the last few months listening to arguments for and against the deal. AT&T and Time Warner claimed the deal will be good for consumers and help them compete against tech companies such as Google and Facebook. The Department of Justice, with the support of President Donald Trump, opposed the merger, arguing that the combined companies would be too powerful and reduce competition.
Makan Delrahim, the antitrust chief of the DOJ, said in a statement that he and his staff are “disappointed” but will “closely review the Court’s opinion and consider next steps,” leaving the door open for an appeal of the ruling.
The acquisition will create one of the most powerful companies in global media, marrying AT&T’s widespread consumer distribution capabilities with the crown jewels of Time Warner, including HBO, Warner Bros. film and TV studios, and TV channels including CNN, TNT and TBS.
Gary Ginsberg, executive Vice President of Time Warner, said that they were happy with the decision.
“We are grateful to the court for seeing it the way we did,” Gindseberg said. “For recognizing this case was meritless political and should never have been brought in the first place.”
Approval of the deal is expected to trigger more deals that could redraw the media and marketing landscape. Comcast is now expected to make an aggressive bid for parts of Fox, which already has a deal to sell some of its entertainment assets to Disney.
The judge’s decision could also give a green light to other mergers in the healthcare realm where CVS Health is set to combine with Aetna, and Cigna is merging with Express Scripts. T-Mobile also has a deal to buy Sprint.
AT&T and Time Warner together are some of the largest buyers of advertising around the globe, spending billions of dollars to market their products. AT&T has said it expects to find $1 billion in synergies in the first three years of the deal.