DOJ sues AT&T bid to buy Time Warner (including CNN)

The Justice Department is suing to block the AT&T - Time Warner merger, says report

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

The lawsuit is the first major challenge to a merger by the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly criticized Time Warner's CNN news unit and announced his opposition to the deal past year, saying it would concentrate too much power in AT&T's hands.

The Justice Department official also warned that such a merger could allow AT&T to slow down advances in technology that would cut costs for consumers.

AT&T head lawyer David McAtee said so-called vertical mergers, between companies that are not direct competitors, are routinely approved. A similar Comcast/NBC Universal merger in 2011 went through with some conditions attached.

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The DOJ announced hours earlier that it is suing to block AT&T's proposed $84.5 billion takeover of Time Warner.

This follows a period filled with reports that the DOJ demanded AT&T and Time Warner sell Turner Broadcasting, which includes CNN. "We see no legitimate reason for our merger to be treated differently".

In statements to the Justice Department, AT&T said specifically that distributors who control popular programming "have the incentive and ability to use that control as a weapon to hinder competition", the official quoted AT&T as saying verbatim. AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said at the time that his company would not sell any assets and would fight the DOJ in court. Now, CNBC has reported that the DOJ has issued the suit today. "We are sure that the court will dismiss the administration's cases and allow this merger under longstanding lawful point of reference".

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