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The Justice Department is going to appeal the $85 billion AT&T-Time Warner merger (T)

randall stephenson AT&T att

  • The US Department of Justice has appealed the $85 billion AT&T-Time Warner merger.
  • The deal was approved last month after nearly two years of trying.
  • Watch AT&T trade in real time here.

The US Justice Department is set to appeal the $85 billion merger between AT&T and Time Warner, Bloomberg says, citing a court filing.

The deal, which has been nearly two years in the making, was approved by Judge Richard Leon just one month ago. It closed days later, but the Justice Department was given 60 days to appeal the ruling. And that is what it has done.

"The Court’s decision could hardly have been more thorough, fact-based, and well-reasoned,"AT&T General Counsel David McAtee said.

"While the losing party in litigation always has the right to appeal if it wishes, we are surprised that the DOJ has chosen to do so under these circumstances. We are ready to defend the Court’s decision at the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.” 

During the trial, the DOJ argued the vertical merger, a merger between two companies in the same industry but at different stages of the business, would reduce competition and hurt consumers by allowing the company to have greater control in negotiations with programmers. That could cause consumers to have to pay higher prices for content. 

Judge Leon ruled, "Ultimately, I conclude that the Government has failed to meet its burden to establish that the proposed ‘transaction is likely to lessen competition substantially." He did say that AT&T would have to temporarily operate Time Warner's Turner networks separately from DirecTV. 

A combination of the two companies was closely watched by an industry in the midst of consolidation. The merger led to Comcast making a $65 billion bid for 21st Century Fox's assets. That bid was later topped by Disney, which offered $71.3 billion.  

AT&T shares are down 1.5% in after-hours trading on Thursday. 

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