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US Court Approves $85Bln AT&T Merger With CNN Owner Time Warner

14 June 2018

The offer is expected to spark a bidding war between the two powerhouses, Disney and Comcast.

Last December, Fox rejected an initial offering from Comcast and chose to pursue Disney's more paltry plea, as it was assumed to have been a safer bet.

Telecom giant AT&T will be allowed to move forward with the merger it negotiated with Time Warner, a federal judge ruled Tuesday in a long-awaited decision expected to have major implications for future mergers and how consumers navigate the media landscape. That led to the Justice Department's lawsuit, filed in November. That would set up a showdown with Disney, which has already put in a bid for those assets. Disney and Fox did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Comcast is proposing to acquire the same pieces of 21CF that Disney had negotiated a deal for: 20th Century Fox, the FX cable network, 22 regional sports networks, Fox's 30% stake in Hulu, and a stake in United Kingdom satellite broadcaster Sky.

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United Kingdom regulators have given the go ahead for that offer if Fox sells Sky News. The companies rejected both options. Shares of Twenty-First Century Fox rose more than 4 percent, while Disney's stock dropped slightly more than 1 percent. Those will be spun off into a new company.

The move follows a previous bid being rebuffed a year ago. In 2017, Disney's Buena Vista held a dominant 21.8% of the movie market share, while Universal Pictures held 13.8% with 20th Century Fox at 12%. 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 deal was hatched in August 2016 when Randall Stephenson, the chief executive of AT&T, called Jeff Bewkes, his counterpart at Time Warner.

Update: Fox sent out a statement confirming that it has received the bid.

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Roberts is known as a tenacious dealmaker.

It was similar to last year's failed bid by New Zealand pay-TV operator Sky Television and telecommunciations company Vodafone to merge, which was blocked by the Commerce Commission. Roberts said in his letter that a merger with Comcast has just as good of a chance of getting regulatory approval.

For example, when Comcast acquired NBCUniversal in 2011, the DoJ mandated that Comcast would have to submit to third-party arbitrators over any pricing disputes with other channels, and said that Comcast couldn't have any control over streaming service Hulu (which Comcast owns a stake in).

Comcast has suggested that it would make some concessions if necessary. Interestingly enough, Fox stated its board of directors recommends they vote in favor of selling to Disney.

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The approved ended a heated antitrust battle, and suggested Comcast would be able to clear any regulatory hurdles to a deal with Fox. Those transactions tarnished Stephenson's record, at least among many investors, Zino said.

US Court Approves $85Bln AT&T Merger With CNN Owner Time Warner