AT&T Can Acquire Time Warner, District Court Rules


The all-cash offer is about 19% higher than Disney's $52.4bn offer, Comcast said, and is likely to spark a bidding war with Disney that could last months.

After all, Disney is big, but Disney is mostly an entertainment conglomerate, whereas Comcast is an industry that provides services to consumers.

Nabila Ahmed, Deals reporter for Bloomberg News covering media and telecom mergers and acquisitions.

Comcast originally outbid Disney back in December of previous year, but Fox entered into a loose agreement with Disney largely partially because of fears about government regulations and antitrust concerns.

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"We were disappointed when 21CF chose to enter into a transaction with The Walt Disney Company, even though we had offered a meaningfully higher price", Comcast CEO Brian Roberts wrote in a letter to Fox's board.

Fox said it had received the Comcast offer and would carefully review it. Disney had no immediate comment.

Some were surprised that the judge ruled in AT&T's favor without conditions.

A deal between Comcast and Fox would only further anxieties over a concentration of power in the U.S. media markets as more cable and satellite TV providers are acquiring major networks and broadcasters. They have been increasingly calling for the government to break up Silicon Valley giants like Google, Facebook and Amazon and to prevent greater consolidation in health care, media, transportation and agriculture.

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"We believe yesterday's decision in the AT&T case supports our confidence", Comcast chief financial officer Mike Cavanagh said on the conference call.

Comcast has made an all-cash bid of $65 billion to acquire a majority of Fox's media assets (including 21st Century Fox), upping the pressure on its biggest rival in the proceedings: The Walt Discney Co.

A judge approved AT&T's $85.4 billion takeover of Time Warner on Tuesday, signaling that other deals could likely be approved as well. Comcast is expected to bid for some of Twenty-First Century Fox Inc. assets as soon as tomorrow.

"We are disappointed in the ruling", Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim said in a statement shortly after the ruling. But Fox went with Disney because of concerns it would face more regulatory scrutiny with the other company. With the judge's ruling, AT&T is now clear to take ownership of HBO, Turner Networks-home to CNN, TNT and TBS-as well as Warner Bros.

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Both deals share similarities: AT&T and Comcast are distributors trying to buy content creators. "AT&T is merging with Time Warner not to thwart online viewing, but to advance it, by enabling AT&T to introduce new video products better suited to mobile viewing", the company argued in papers filed with Leon this spring. "Barring a third entrant (Internet/tech is possible), we would see the most sensible outcome as splitting the baby, with Comcast getting Sky (which we see as its main goal) and Disney getting most of the rest".