AT&T moved the deadline for its Time Warner deal again, less than two months after originally postponing the acquisition it initially hoped to conclude by the end of this year, as per its 2016 announcement of the merger. The Dallas, Texas-based wireless carrier revealed the development in a recent filing with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission, citing its pending trial with the Department of Justice as the reason for the delay. The DOJ sued to block AT&T's proposed consolidation in late November after a lengthy period of reviewing the matter and failing to reach an agreement with the mobile service provider in regards to its antitrust concerns about the deal.
AT&T now pushed the April 22nd deadline to June 21st, 2018, stating the postponement was agreed together with Time Warner. The move is understood to have been encouraged by U.S. District Judge Richard Leon who recently scheduled the start of the trial for March 19th but told AT&T he's unlikely to make a ruling on the matter before the previous deadline. The telecom giant is pushing for expedited proceedings as it claims it's certain of having a strong case against the DOJ's allegations, and an antitrust ruling of this nature made in just three months wouldn't be unprecedented. However, "unprecedented" is a fitting description for the majority of other circumstances surrounding the case, starting with the sheer scope of the acquisition and AT&T's rapidly growing ambitions in the media industry to the DOJ's surprising decision to attempt to block the (vertical) kind of merger that's historically been allowed in the U.S. without much regulatory roadblocks, especially under Republican governments.
AT&T is now said to be investigating the possibility of the White House being involved in the DOJ's move to block the consolidation due to President Trump's poor relations with Time Warner-owned CNN. The federal agency repeatedly dismissed the possibility of any such involvement, citing a lack of cooperation on AT&T's part as one of the reasons for the development. AT&T reportedly refused to make major concessions after the DOJ expressed concerns about the deal negatively affecting the overall competitiveness of the media market and ultimately hurting consumers. The regulator previously suggested the company sells either its DIRECTV division or divests Time Warner's Turner, seeking to limit AT&T's chances to successfully merge its way to a media empire.