AT&T ready to fight USA on Time Warner deal: CEO

12 November, 2017, 02:39 | Author: Barbara Daniel
  • Manhattan’s East Village. Credit Christian Hansen for The New York Times

"Inside Time Warner, it wasn't taken lightly".

Yesterday, reports surfaced that the Department of Justice (DOJ) had requested a sale of either Turner Broadcasting, which owns CNN, or DirecTV before it would approve AT&T's acquisition of Time Warner. This requirement sparked speculation amongst people in the companies that the Justice Department may have been influenced by the Trump administration, according to The Journal. The official, who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, said the department rejected that offer as insufficient to resolve its concerns, which it did not specify.

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson has denied that his company would ever sell CNN, while Vanity Fair reported some in media are speculating Murdoch has been quietly urging Trump to tank the merger in revenge for Time Warner declining an $80 billion buyout offer in 2014.

The deal's holdup has raised suspicions of political retaliation - even from people who oppose the deal entirely.

Trump did again raise the issue of news media consolidation.

Kushner reportedly filed complaints to CNN executives on a regular basis during the campaign, and was particularly displeased with its fact-checking, which, according to The Journal, prompted Kushner to call CNN president Jeff Zucker to say that members of the Trump campaign would not appear on the network. The AT&T-Time Warner deal is a "vertical merger", which consolidates two companies, but does not eliminate a competitor.

"We're prepared to litigate now", Stephenson said at a conference this week hosted by the New York Times.

The newspaper's source in the White House said that this was meant merely as a joke and Kushner did not mean to be taken seriously. Trump's hand-picked antitrust chief, Makan Delrahim, said he has "never been instructed by the White House on this or any other transaction under review by the antitrust division". AT&T shares rose 1.6 percent to $33.97. The deal, he said, would put "too much concentration of power in the hands of too few".

AT&T has argued against selling off either company's assets, as it believes this would undercut the rationale for the tie-up. AT&T announced plans a year ago to purchase Time Warner to create a juggernaut with more than 142 million mobile subscribers and a major player in pay TV broadcasting via DirecTV.

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