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

randall stephenson AT&T att

  • The US Department of Justice has moved to appeal the $85 billion AT&T-Time Warner merger.
  • A judge approved the deal last month after nearly two years of effort by the two companies.
  • Watch AT&T trade in real time here.

The US Justice Department has moved 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 last month. It closed days later, but the Justice Department was given 60 days to appeal the ruling.

"The court's decision could hardly have been more thorough, fact-based, and well-reasoned," AT&T's general counsel, David McAtee, said Thursday.

"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 DC Circuit Court of Appeals."

During the trial, the Justice Department argued that the companies' vertical merger, one between two companies in the same industry that operate at different stages of the supply chain, 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.

In his ruling, Leon said, "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 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 preceded Comcast's $65 billion bid for 21st Century Fox's assets. That bid was later topped by Disney, which offered $71.3 billion.

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

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